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"The mens' shed" - dementia care for men

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Topics: 
approaches to dementia care, exercise, hobbies, men and dementia

The Mary Chester club is a day centre in Perth run by the Alzheimer’s Society of Western Australia.  They opened their doors today to hundreds of delegates to the Alzheimer Disease International conference.   A majority of those attending are from Asia; I met practitioners and researchers from Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong - as well as several from far-flung parts of Australia. The Mary Chester club is run along Eden Alternative lines, an approach to care that seeks to ‘abolish boredom and loneliness’ by creating stimulating, warm and welcoming environments for people with dementia.  This club also provides a library with masses of information about different aspects of dementia care and technological solutions for everyday problems.  Its personnel set up peer support groups of people with a diagnosis, while specialist consultants are on hand to work with individuals who encounter specific problems at home or in residential care.   

The provision for men was particularly interesting to me. Many men attending the club included a love of sports in their personal profiles, and had been active players of golf, tennis or other sports.  Appropriately, therefore, regular outings to the leisure centre with a dedicated fitness trainer were part of the weekly routine, while those who were too frail to leave the premises enjoyed chair-based exercise and meditation, we were told.  One room in the centre was called a ’mens’ shed’, equipped with a workbench and tools for woodworking, and I saw that at least two of the care staff at the club are male.  Of course women enjoy exercise and woodworking too, but it was good to see the attention given to meeting mens’ needs.      

Yet it was noticeable that the vast majority of the delegates to the conference are female.  I wonder why there is such a gender imbalance in dementia care.  Men with dementia are seldom offered the option of a male carer, simply because they are so rare.  Perhaps we should find out what obstacles stand in the way of a better match between the proportion of men with dementia and the proportion of male carers. 

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