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The power of song is being used to help fight the ‘ticking time bomb’ of dementia, as the number of people with the condition in the borough is expected to reach 4,000 by 2021.

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There are currently more than 3,000 people with dementia in Havering.

As a number of nationwide initiatives are launched into the research, screening and early diagnosis of dementia, Havering Council and the Alzheimer’s Society are working to provide a range of new services across the borough to help people living with the condition, their carers and families.

A new peer support service will enable residents who are facing the life changing challenges posed by dementia to share their experiences and help each other. The groups will enable people to come together to offer each other support, information and to reduce social isolation.

The council and Alzheimer’s Society are also launching Singing for the Brain groups.

Open to people with dementia and carers, the sessions help build confidence through song for those affected by memory problems.

Singing stimulates the brain and memory as well as relieving stress.

As part of a 12-week programme – the first of its kind in North East London -the singing group meets once a week and is here to help Havering residents in the early to moderate stages of dementia. The sessions last around two hours and usually take place on Wednesday mornings.

Coral Kathro, Support Services Manager for the Alzheimer’s Society says:

“I’ve seen people who are barely able to speak, be transformed by the music, singing along to tunes from their past as if their old memories are suddenly unlocked. It’s also great fun and uplifting for everyone who takes part.”

The partners will also be offering a new Information and Advice Outreach Service, to increase knowledge and awareness of dementia and help earlier diagnosis. Starting next month, travelling surgeries will visit supermarkets, post offices and sheltered housing schemes and community groups throughout the borough.

Finally, additional respite support for carers will be provided by Crossroads Care. The scheme starts next month and will help provide much needed respite for up to 80 carers for up to six hours every four weeks.

Dementia is caused by disease of the brain; symptoms include loss of memory, confusion and problems with speech and understanding. It is progressive and eventually terminal. People with dementia currently fill a quarter of all hospital beds and it is anticipated that one in three people aged over 65 will develop the disease.

Deputy Leader of Havering Council, Cllr Steven Kelly, said: “These new services are all about letting people know they are not alone in coping with dementia. Working with partners we are looking to increase early diagnosis, tackle anxiety and loneliness brought on by the disease. Events such as Singing for the Brain will help slow down the onset of dementia and help people live normal and contented lives.”

Singing for the Brain takes place at Alzheimer’s Society, St Cedds Centre, Sims Close, Romford, RM1 3QT on Wednesday mornings at 10.30am. Peer Support Groups have already been arranged for central Romford, Cranham and Harold Hill, with more planned.

The singing sessions are free for residents on pension credit. Otherwise there is a cost of £3 per person per session, which includes refreshments.

For more information please call 01708 739293 or e-mail anne.worboys@alzheimers.org.uk

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