Local Bangor woman living with dementia ‘pulls the curtains’ on her Soft Furnishing business to assist others living with the condition.

After 41 years in the drapery business, local Bangor woman June Graham is hanging up the curtains for the last time, as she sells off remnants from her soft furnishing business, and all stock must go!

Having supplied drapery for some of Northern Ireland’s top celebrities, and big players in the local hospitality industry, at 75 years of age, June is retiring from curtain making, and taking a well-earned rest to concentrate on what she loves most, her family and hobbies.

“I moved to Bangor with my husband Roy in 1966, we have been married 52 years now and have raised our three boys whilst living here in the town. My husband and I have kept ourselves very busy over the years by running a very successful soft furnishing business from our home.”

Last year, I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia. Whilst I am in the early stages, living with dementia has its daily struggles and challenges, and although I did start to cut back a little on my workload, I didn’t want to give it all up until absolutely necessary.”

There are approximately 20,000 people living with dementia in Northern Ireland. Dementia is an incurable condition which strips people of their memories and brain power. The term Dementia describes a wide range of symptoms associated with the deterioration of functions, including memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday activities. Symptoms differ from person to person but can affect orientation, perception, understanding, memory, decision making, ability to learn, communication and judgement.

June recognised how the right home environment will help her to stay safe, physically active and in better touch with friends and family whilst remaining integrated within her local community.

“In the next few months I hope to move to a new house, my concentration is not as good as what it used to be, and I doubt myself more now than before my diagnosis.
My husband Roy and I want to move to a more enabling environment that will promote our independence. Our current house is up a steep hill and although we love it dearly, we have made the decision that living on one level would now be more appropriate for both myself and Roy.

To help with the clear out I am organising a closing down soft furnishing sale with all proceeds going to Dementia NI. Dementia NI support me a lot through my diagnosis and I want to give back to them for helping me in my time of need.”

June explains more of how she came to receive her diagnosis,

“My family had noticed a change in my attitude, and it was them who encouraged me to go to my GP. My GP did a memory test and then referred me to a local Consultant.  Receiving the diagnosis was a lot less painful than I thought it would be. My Consultant was very understanding, when he told me I had dementia, I was surprised but not shocked. Before I was diagnosed, I knew very little about it. Growing up, my grandmother who lived in London had dementia, but back then I was too young to understand what is was all about. I do recall my mother talking to me at the time about my grandmother and the dementia, but like other young girls I was more interested in playing with my dolls.”

June maintains her zest for life and determination has helped her to come to terms with her diagnosis,

“I thought right, let’s get something done about this and immediately I sought to learn how to cope with my diagnosis for me and my family. I was put in touch with my local Dementia Navigator from the South East Trust who came out to visit myself and my husband. My time spent with the Dementia Navigator was fantastic, she was very helpful, informative and supportive, especially at a time of uncertainty for me and my family. It was through her, that I was signposted to Dementia NI.”

Local charity Dementia NI was developed in 2015 by five people living with dementia, who wanted to ensure that the voice of people living with dementia is at the core of policy, practice and service delivery across NI.  They are now establishing an Empowerment Group in Bangor to provide a place where people recently diagnosed with dementia can come and share, reflect and provide peer support. Members use their experiences and opinions to make a difference in the services and support provided to them, to better meet their individual needs and challenge the stigma of dementia.

‘Receiving a diagnosis can be a very lonely time for people living with dementia, many who first hear that they have diagnosis isolate themselves from the world, fear for the future, feel depressed and hopeless’, said Ashleigh Davis, the charity’s local empowerment officer. ‘These are the people we are reaching out to.’
Despite her diagnosis, June continues to live life to the full, with a positive attitude,

“I am very honest with family and friends about my dementia, I never try to hide it. I want to make sure people know about dementia and how they can best support me and others living with the symptoms. It took a while for my family to understand the changes that were happening to me due to my dementia, but I reassure them regularly that people with dementia can live well and that we tackle dementia head on as best we can.  I have 3 grandchildren, 2 boys and a girl. I absolutely love my grandchildren and they give me a new outlook and focus in life.”

June’s Soft Furnishing Closing Down Sale takes place on Friday 23rd & Saturday 24th of February from 10am to 4pm at Trinity Presbyterian Church Hall, Main Street, Bangor, BT20 5AF and everything must go. For more details contact: 07720 986 533. 

Refreshments of tea and coffee are also available throughout the day.

Dementia NI in Bangor

Dementia NI are currently establishing a group in Bangor for people recently diagnosed with dementia.

Dementia is an incurable condition which strips people of their memories and brain power, yet five people with the condition were able to come together to empower themselves and others by founding local charity Dementia NI.

‘Receiving a diagnosis can be a very lonely time for people living with dementia, many who first hear that they have diagnosis isolate themselves from the world, fear for the future, feel depressed and hopeless’, said Ashleigh Davis, the charity’s local empowerment officer. ‘These are the people we are reaching out to.’

Dementia NI empowerment groups are small groups of members, who all have a diagnosis of dementia. Dementia Empowerment Groups provide a place where people with dementia can come and share, reflect and provide peer support.

The groups are facilitated by a member of staff, who supports the organisation of the meeting and is the main point of contact in Dementia NI. Empowerment groups give individuals the opportunity to raise awareness about what it is like to live with the symptoms of dementia.

Members use their experiences and opinions to make a difference in the services and support provided to them to better meet their individual needs and challenge the stigma of dementia. Dementia NI groups regularly host visitors at the groups to offer feedback, consult and share experiences to anyone wishing to gain the opinions of people with dementia.

Following a diagnosis, many people with dementia and their carers feel they are doing ok and wish to go it alone without getting involved with organisations like Dementia NI. They do not look for assistance until they unfortunately reach crisis point. Tara Collins Programme Manager for Dementia NI, highlights the benefits of becoming involved with Dementia NI for people recently diagnosed.

“Dementia NI members recognise the benefits of becoming involved with Dementia NI groups. Members support each other through friendship and understanding and gain satisfaction from knowing that they are making positive changes for people living with dementia in Northern Ireland. We encourage individuals with a diagnosis of dementia to get in contact to learn how they can become involved.”

Contact us:

To receive more information on local Dementia NI groups, provide feedback, make a donation, or support us in continuing to develop our work please contact: Dementia NI Head Office: Dementia NI, 54 Elmwood Avenue, Belfast, BT9 6AZ. Tel: 028 90686768

Dementia NI aims:

  • Challenge the stigma of having a diagnosis by raising awareness about dementia
  • Promote the rights of people living with dementia to influence policy, practice and service delivery across Northern Ireland
  • Provide training, education and awareness to organisations and the public on how to live well with dementia
  • Support people living with dementia to lobby and raise awareness of dementia.

Many of our members recognise the benefits of being involved:

  • Satisfaction from knowing that they are making positive changes
  • Helping to maintain members’ abilities and skills, as well as learn new skills
  • Staying actively involved in the local community
  • Getting out and about, helping to alleviate potential isolation and boredom
  • Sharing experiences and offering support to each other
  • Improving mood and overall well-being

For media information, contact:

To receive more information, provide feedback, make a donation, or support us in continuing to develop our work please contact:

Dementia NI Head Office: Dementia NI, 54 Elmwood Avenue, Belfast, BT9 6AZ.

Telephone: 028 90686768

Programme Manager, Tara on: 07966881419

Empowerment Officer, Ashleigh on: 07966881429

Email: info@dementiani.org

Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DementiaNI
Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Dementia_NI  
JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/dementia-ni

Cheques made payable to Dementia NI can be sent to 54 Elmwood Avenue, Belfast, BT9 6AZ  (*Please do not send cash in the post.*)