Purple Angel dementia awareness campaigners fly into Caernarfon

One of North Wales’ leading arts centres has given a huge boost to a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of dementia.

Galeri Caernarfon is the first organisation in North West Wales to back the Purple Angels project which is rapidly gathering momentum.

The campaign was the brainchild of Alzheimer’s sufferer Norman McNamara from Torquay who was diagnosed six years ago and is now being promoted by the Wrexham-based care home organisation Pendine Park.

Anita Moran, Pendine Park’s activities and well-being co-ordinator, is the first person in Wales to become an ambassador for the scheme, which is aimed at raising awareness and at helping people to know how to respond to sufferers.

Mario Kreft, the proprietor of Pendine Park, is an enthusiastic supporter of the scheme and wants to see Wrexham designated as Wales’ first dementia-friendly town.

But with Pendine due to open a £7 million dementia care centre on the site of the former Bryn Seiont Hospital in Caernarfon next year he is hoping shops, businesses and other organisations in the area to follow suit.

The Galeri theatre and arts centre is the first to do so, and chief executive Gwyn Roberts was delighted to pledge his support, seeing it as a simple but important step to improve inclusivity.

All participating establishments are given a seven-point guide to understanding the illness and the symptoms, which can include confusion, staring and repeating questions or comments. A short training session will be conducted by a member of Pendine Park’s specialist staff.

Premises will then display “Purple Angel” stickers and posters to show that staff understand possible problems and know how to respond.

“The middle-aged and elderly form a big part of our demographic here in the Galeri and knowing how to respond is part of customer care in general,” said Gwyn. “It complements our overall aim to provide an efficient, friendly service to all visitors to the Galeri so from our perspective it makes good sense.

“We have 50 part-time and full-time staff here and the response to the idea of joining the scheme has been extremely positive. Most people know someone – a friend or relative – with some form of dementia and so they can relate to it,” he said.

Mario said that Bryn Seiont Dementia Care Centre, which is due to open in September, 2015, and will employ more than 100 staff, would help to raise the profile of dementia and dispel the misunderstandings held by many people about the illness.

“The Purple Angels campaign is so simple to put into practice and yet it can make a great difference to so many people.

“We needed someone to set the ball rolling in Caernarfon and were looking for like-minded organisations. We are very grateful to Gwyn and the Galeri for being so receptive to the idea and agreeing to be the first to sign up,” he said.

“It’s very appropriate because of Pendine’s policy of enrichment through which we use the arts to help improve the quality of life of the residents in our homes.

“We are hoping to work with Galeri in future as part of our enrichment programme in the local community in the Caernarfon area.

“It is in the interests of all businesses to support something like this because people with dementia can sometimes feel very isolated but if they have a good experience and an appropriate response they are likely to return. It’s simply good business practice,” he said.

Mario was inspired to open his first care home in 1985 when he became frustrated in his failure to find suitable care for his grandmother Rene Warburton, from Rhyl, who suffered from dementia.

The Welsh Government is expected to give its formal backing to the Purple Angel campaign later this year.

Norman McNamara, who was just 50 when he was diagnosed with the illness, has described it as “the loneliest disease in the world”.

“The more people that understand and talk about it, the more the stigma that is attached to it will be reduced and eventually become a distant memory,” he said.

Any other businesses interested in backing the Purple Angels campaign should contact Gwynfor Jones by emailing him at gwynfor.jones@pendinepark.com or ringing him on 01978 729242

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