Dementia Action Week: Bristol podcast breaking stigma

A new podcast presented by people with dementia hopes to encourage people to speak more openly about the condition.

The Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service (BDWS) has been teaching people podcast researching, interviewing and recording skills.

John Hyde, 65, who has early-onset dementia, said the episode he made with his granddaughter "gave me a purpose".

Producer Trish Caverly said it was "really, really important" for people with dementia to continue learning.

She said the aim of the podcast was to put people living with dementia "in the driving seat rather than being the recipients being interviewed about things".

Mr Hyde said following his diagnosis in 2017 he "fell completely right out of the system".

"I was just left with us and the internet to find out what the disease was," he said.

The former horticulture and garden designer did not want other people to have the same "lonely" experience, so he set up a website with all of the information he could find about the condition.

When he heard about BDWS' project he jumped at the chance to create a podcast with his seven-year-old granddaughter Ariana, called How to Speak to Children About Dementia.

He said she already understood that his brain was different to others and she regularly reminds him of his plans for the week.

"Younger people are like sponges for learning. So instead of teaching them all the bad things there are, why not teach them about humanity? And part of humanity is getting ill and dying."

Mr Hyde, who also writes children's books, said dementia "steals your humanity" but added that making the podcast had kept his brain cells "oiled."

"It is really key for all of us ageing, but particularly for people with dementia, to continue learning, to continue being in a situation where there is new stimulus because that helps to keep our brain as active as it can be," added Ms Caverly.

She said one of the aims of the BDWS, a partnership between Alzheimer's Society and Devon Partnership Trust, was to create opportunities for people affected by dementia to "continue enjoying their everyday existence".

The pilot episode was launched on Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service's website as part of Dementia Awareness Week (16-22 May) and the group hopes to make more in the future.

Mr Hyde is now "looking forward" to working more with the service, visiting schools to talk to children about the disease.

"[Dementia has] given me a different life. But whatever we've got, whatever we haven't got, make a life of it.

"Even if I pass away tomorrow I could look him in the eye up in heaven and say thank you for my lovely life, I've had a real good life down there," he added.