Proud to have put Torbay on the world stage

An outdoor Christmas tree decorated in red and gold in a snow-covered clearing with snowy trees behind it

Sometimes, if you give that Christmas tree a bit of a nudge, the memories are re-lit - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Hello, my name is Norrms McNamara and I am the founder of the global Purple Angel dementia campaign, which I am incredibly proud to say started right here in Torquay just seven  years ago. 

I was also diagnosed with dementia myself some years ago, with Lewy Body's.

We are now recognised in more than 60 countries around the world and have over 1,200 Purple Angel dementia ambassadors worldwide.

We have certainly put Torbay on the world stage and are so very proud of that, but we couldn’t have done this without the incredible people of Torbay and for that we are eternally grateful. 

As you can see, I am the new kid on the block in this wonderful weekly paper.

Every week I hope to bring you my perspective of living with dementia on a weekly basis, helping more people understand this awful disease in layman’s terms as well as other health topics within the Bay but I will warn you now, I am a forever optimist with hope in my heart that one day a cure will come and especially in my lifetime, I have to believe this or I could not do what I do on a daily basis.

So as its Christmas, albeit a different Christmas this year, here are a few thoughts and my own interpretation of how to explain what dementia is at this time of year.

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Remembering Christmas past from a long time ago, getting albums out from years ago is a great way of spending some time with those with dementia this year.

You see talking about last year or the year before may become frustrating for those with this disease as one of the main traits of this disease is short-term memory loss.

I bet they can tell you who they went to school with all those years ago but not what they had for lunch yesterday ,so it’s that type of thing I mean.

Bring out all the old pictures and photos of years ago, pics of yourself as a child as well as them if you have them, and always remember to laugh with them not at them, so important, and if they can’t remember... so what? It really doesn’t matter as long as they are having a good day today.

I am often asked 'What, in layman's terms, is dementia?'

I often answer it this way and especially at this time of year:

If you can imagine a Christmas tree, absolutely dripping with lights that shine as bright as you have ever seen, have you ever wondered of the beauty of it and how it shines those lights of hope all around the world?

Then, if you imagine that every one of those wonderful lights are your life’s memories which can be seen - remembered - at any time. Then all of a sudden, one by one, those lights go out. Slowly but surely they start to diminish until they are gone forever, never to return, all memories of loved ones, family and life’s experiences just disappear until the final one folds into darkness and we all know, unless they find a cure what this means.

This is how I explain, in layman’s terms what dementia is.

But, If sometimes, you give that Christmas tree a bit of a nudge - and I do not in any way condone shaking anyone with dementia! - but, if you include and engage with people who have this awful disease, sometimes, just sometimes, these wonderful lights come back on, if only for a second, a few minutes or permanently. 

It doesn’t matter, the point is they have come back on and that memory has returned, for no matter how long.

I hope this helps and will help people in the future to try and explain what dementia is, especially around this time of year.

Merry Christmas to all.