850,000 people in the UK are estimated to be living with dementia according to Alzheimer’s Research UK. When a parent or grandparent is diagnosed with dementia it can be hard to take in, and sometimes harder for children to understand the changes going on for their loved person. This may be because they don’t “properly understand what dementia is, or they might find it harder to cope with their feelings”, say Alzheimer’s Society.
Author of My Grandma Has Dementia, Alex Winstanley has produced his book to tackle this with the aim of helping children gain a better understanding of dementia. Alex had a particularly special bond with his Grandmother who was diagnosed with Mixed Dementia. As a result he wanted to write a book sharing his Grandmother’s story to “educate children and young people about the impact that dementia can have on a person and their family. He adds, “I had always wanted to write something to help children understand dementia and last year gave me the ideal time to start it. I wanted to find another way of positively impacting children and young people and this book was it!”
His grandmother sadly passed just before Christmas in 2020 but Alex feels proud that her legacy will live on through the book. He comments, “I’ve had pictures and feedback from families as far as New Zealand and across the USA and it makes my day when people get in touch to tell me how the book has helped their family. The book has even been shortlisted for a national Dementia Hero Award 2021!”
The author feels as though education for children and young people on dementia is key due to the various changes, helping to “relieve anxieties and fears as much as possible by ensuring that they are well informed about long-term health conditions such as dementia, in a positive and supportive way”.
He elaborates, “That is exactly why this book and the book series exists – to start the conversation for children and young people about health conditions that are often treated as a taboo subject. As a former teacher, I think it is imperative that children and young people start these conversations from as young an age as possible. So many people have commented that they wish the book was around when they had to explain dementia to their children, which always gives me a sense of satisfaction.”
Since the release of My Grandma Had Dementia, Alex’s non-profit organisation, Happy Smiles Training CIC, has used the book for an intergenerational reading project between local schools and care homes. He comments, “The aim is to support the reading and interpersonal skills of children and young people, whilst addressing the social isolation for older people, caused by the impact of COVID-19. We have had extremely positive feedback from schools and care homes, with all organisations involved going on to purchase copies of the book for their beneficiaries. All profits from book sales support the awareness-raising work we do at Happy Smiles, led by our team of disabled young adults.”
Alex has since released a second book, My Uncle Has Depression, inspired by lived experience of someone in his life who lives with Bipolar. The book was also informed by many former Rugby League players who have experienced depression with the aim of encouraging children and young people to talk about mental health.
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