The flurry of Christmas ads that come out at this time of year all aim to pull at out heartstrings - usually very successfully. The one this year from Alzheimer's Research UK is no exception, but for very good reason.
The charity is striving to shatter the misconception that dementia is an inevitable part of ageing.
Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Santa Forgot is a poignant and powerful reminder that dementia doesn’t discriminate. We have to be provocative about dementia, to help fight misconceptions and fatalism around the condition and to demonstrate that pioneering research holds the answers.
Designed to be particularly hard hitting, the video explores the shattering idea that Santa has developed Alzheimer's disease and is no longer able to deliver his presents to children around the world on Christmas Eve. But one little girl refuses to give up on him.....
Produced by Aardman Animations (creators of Wallace and Gromit), and narrated by Stephen Fry, the message of the video is clear. In just the same way that it is research that has opened the door towards finding a cure for Cancer and AIDS, research also holds the answer to starting the fight back against the physical diseases which cause dementia.
"Santa Forgot reminds us to believe in the power of research.”
Hilary Evans, CEO Alzheimer's Research UK
Liz Ayre an Alzheimer’s Research UK Champion: Liz lost her husband Mike to early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2013 aged just 51. Their daughter Ciana voices Freya in the animation.
“Santa Forgot is beautiful, sad and hopeful all at once and stirred so many different emotions when we watched it. The film shows that dementia doesn’t discriminate: it affects people from so many different backgrounds from nurses and teachers to world leaders and eloquent writers.
“If we’re ever going to change how society views, or often ignores, dementia, we have to be a bit confrontational and challenge people’s misconceptions. I hope Santa Forgot gives people two minutes to think about the impact of dementia this Christmas, and be inspired by how we can change the future with research. I’m proud that my family has been involved in the campaign, and to hear Ciana bring Freya’s voice to life in the animation is a special moment for us and a great tribute to Mike.”
Here, dementia expert, Christina MacDonald, Content Director for leading brain and mind clinic Re:Cognition Health, shares her key tips.
“You can’t do it on your ow,n so enlist the support of trusted friends, family and neighbours and accept help when it is offered, even if you think you won’t need it straight away.”
“Speak to professional organisations for advice and support – your local authority, Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK, Dementia UK, Carers UK, and visit online resources including The Alzheimer’s Show website – and do your research on local support and funding available. More information on these can be found in Christina's new book, Dementia Care: A Guide.”
“It’s important to remember that dementia is a disease of the brain, so a person with dementia could be susceptible to sudden and unpredictable mood swings, often without warning. It is the disease talking, not the individual, and because they can’t change their behaviour, you need to learn to detach yourself from the situation. Give them some space to calm down if need be.”
“A person with dementia can be happy one minute and angry the next. As moods can be erratic, be prepared for all situations when you visit (if you don’t live with the person you’re a carer for). If you are tired, stressed or not in a good place, it will not benefit either person.”
“The endorphins released when exercising are mood enhancing. Exercising with the person you are caring for will benefit you both, helping to clear the mind and help reduce symptoms of sundowning (when a person with dementia can be susceptible to mood swings late afternoon or early evening when the sun goes down).”
“Don’t talk about bereavements – even though they may have happened a very long time ago, they can be perceived as news to the person and trigger episodes of grief. When you can, change the subject when asked about where a deceased person is – you may find it’s a brief moment that you can move on from very quickly.”
“Social interaction will make a difference to the person’s mood and mental awareness. Encourage the person to get involved in activities or mix with others as mental stimulation helps. Know when to back off if they don’t want to do something and don’t forget to mix yourself – befriending other carers is an excellent opportunity to vent, share and support, or having a coffee with those unaffected by dementia will give you a chance to switch off from your caring duties.”
“A regular routine and familiar environment will make the person feel secure. If you are planning a day trip, find a favourite place where the person feels comfortable or associates with happy memories.”
“The time will come when the person with dementia can no longer be left alone, so it’s advisable to start planning, preparing and thinking about the future as soon as possible. Make sure paperwork is in order, organise Lasting Power of Attorneys for Property & Finance and Health & Welfare, notify the DVLA of the person’s dementia diagnosis and locate important documents you may need to manage in future such as bank statements and bills.”
“A healthy carer makes a good carer; you can’t look after someone else if you don’t take care of yourself. Take time out, have regular daily breaks and short holidays away when you need them.”