How you can help support our vital Dementia Group

By Sharon Edens

I PUT the Dementia Support Tenerife group together two years ago, after moving to Tenerife six years earlier with my Mun and Dad.

Mum had Alzheimer’s dementia and Dad had vascular dementia, as a result of numerous mini-strokes. But I had been a dementia-specialist nurse in the UK and worked, latterly, as a regional manager for a care-home group.

Its primary focus was on the development of Dementia Houses to provide a stimulating, yet sensitive, environment for those people needing full-time care.

But while looking after my parents here, I found that there was a lack of services available to tap into, within the ex-pat community.

I also noticed that many of the premises here were not “dementia friendly”, and this led to a good deal of searching for places to which I could take them, on a day or night out.

Yet I felt that with my experiences, I could start the group on Facebook, and though there was some interest, life got in the way of developing my idea to support others, apart from online.

But what you see today is down to me being contacted by a lady called Helen. She supports her ex-husband, who has Lewy Body dementia, and she had noticed that music and movement therapy sessions could have a beneficial effect on those living with dementia.

Helen wanted to offer her services to host these sessions, as she has, for many years, worked within the entertainment/music industry.

She found my group, and, as they say, the rest is history!

What are the group’s aims?

Our vision is to provide support for those living with the dementia disease in Tenerife, and their carers. Often, those with a diagnosis become isolated because their friends stop visiting, believing there is no point.

Many are elderly, many live alone, and many do not have family on the island. But our logo symbolises our group. We want the elephant to show that people living with dementia never forget… they just store and express information differently.

The heart shows the love, warmth and compassion given by the group, and the balloons express our philosophies, providing support, encouragement and caring.

What type of therapy sessions will you provide?

They will comprise music and movement, which will be starting next month in Costa del Silencio. Also, there are plans to stage swimming sessions with a qualified instructor, as well as table-top gardening and craft sessions. And we have a lovely doggie, who can provide pet therapy.

We also have plans to hold a Tea Dance a few times a year, and we are open to more suggestions.

Who will provide this support?

There are a core group of people who have come together, although we welcome anyone wishing to be involved. We all have a connection to dementia in some way.

Some are currently caring for loved ones, and some have performed this function in the past. In addition, some have professional experience in this area, while others just want to offer their skills.

How can you support carers?

By providing therapy-support sessions, these people will be able to bring along the person they are caring for, allowing them to interact with the session and others. They can then sit on the sidelines, have a cuppa and a chat with others in the same position.

Believe me, this can be all the break you need some days! In addition, we can provide a “sitting” service, in which one of our supporters will stay at home with the person living with dementia, allowing the carer to do the shopping, get her hair done, go for a drink with friends, or just sit quietly on the beach, maybe, to recharge, by having some peace and tranquility.

Just knowing there is someone a carer can contact, really is a support network needed here.

We can also assist with translators. We have a few translators on board with us, hugely experienced in medical matters, especially dementia.

Having consistency with dementia is so important, because you have to be able to understand the person living with the dementia, and listen to what the carer is saying. The two do not always agree!

Carers also have to be very aware of the need for input from the group, and support for the carer, because this is one of the hardest diseases to care for, because you see the person you are caring for disappearing, day by day.

What is dementia?

It is a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes, caused by brain disease or injury, and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning.

Is it different from Alzheimer’s disease?

No. Alzheimer’s is one of the 400 types of dementia. It is, according to records, the most common, and can start in those aged just 40 to 50.

How do the 400 types of dementia differ?

Each dementia is caused by a different disease, or events which cause changes in the brain. And each dementia presents itself in different way, and has a different journey. For example, Parkinson’s disease can often lead to Lewy Body dementia, which is down to protein deposits in the brain.

Lewy Body dementia is an up-and-down journey because one day, the person can appear to be functioning very well, and the next day, or even later in the day, they can be viewed as not being able to do anything.

It can be so frustrating for carers if they don’t understand that this is the presentation of the journey. Sometimes, they can even believe the sufferer is “putting it on”.

It can also be most frustrating for the people living with it, because they don’t understand why they are unable to carry out a particular task.

Vascular dementia, which is the second-highest type recorded, is normally caused by strokes or mini-strokes. This dementia occurs normally in stages. The person can go through plateaux, and then have a decline in cognitive ability, without showing symptoms of further strokes.

Korsakoff syndrome is a type of brain disorder, caused normally by excessive alcohol intake. Symptoms may include confusion, changes to the eyes and vision, as well as exaggerated story-telling, among others.

Can dementia be cured?

Frustratingly, medical science has so far been unable to find a cure. The truth is that there is unlikely to be a single “one-pill-cures-all” treatment for the condition, because the brain-damage of dementia is caused by many different diseases.

However, research continues to be aimed at reducing risk factors, in addition to slowing down the decline, and improving function and quality of life.

Once diagnosed, this does not mean the person with the dementia cannot live a full and happy life within his or her abilities, which is what we aim to assist with.

There are certain “dementias” in which the damage is done by a specific action, such as Korsakoff’s, in which a reduction in alcohol intake will reduce the continuation of brain damage, and some, which can be down to infections, and is, therefore, treated with antibiotics. But, sadly, “true” dementias are incurable.

Will you be contributing to research?

No! All funds raised will be directed at supporting those living with dementia in Tenerife, and their carers.

How can the community help?

We need funds to provide these services because, although none of the support team will benefit financially from the group, and the roles of the Association are carried out voluntarily, there are costs involved for equipment etc, and, of course, the cost of the Association application.

So how are you going to raise the funds needed?

We are holding our first fund-raiser tomorrow (Saturday, 14th December) at The Irish Oak in Torviscas, from 2pm until 6pm. We have live acts booked, and stalls selling all kinds of products, as well as various things going on throughout the day, such as a raffle, auction, teddy-naming, sweet jar, cakes, etc.

It promises to be a fantastic day, and some superb prizes have already been donated.

We hope the community will come along and dig deep, to assist us in raising enough funds to start the therapy sessions, provide much-needed support and go towards us getting Association status.

We are aware that it is a big ask, and that there are many fantastic organisations already here in Tenerife, performing astonishing work for a variety of causes. But we are hoping to share some of the support Tenerife’s community and tourists also show to these.

Will the group be available to locals, or is it just for


So far, the contact has been within the ex-pat community, but we hope in time that the locals will also benefit. It is an ongoing project, which, we hope, will expand and embrace the whole community, who are in need, and can improve their quality of life by being involved.

How can people contact the group?

The group has a Facebook group and page, and through this, private messages can be sent to ask for assistance.

We have also set up a private group called Dementia Help Me Tenerife, which is where those caring for others can rant, speak freely about their feelings, etc, any time night or day. And we can also give support in this way.

There are contact numbers on the page for those who would prefer to speak with someone, rather than online.

Anyone needing support can contact me, Sharon Edens, directly on 643 274 042.




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