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Following in the steps of a great problem solver

20 March 2018
Young woman helping a smiling older woman

A large part of what makes a successful challenge prize is really understanding the challenge and articulating what good looks like. It’s a bit like building a house on shaky foundations - how can we expect innovators to come up with solutions that help address the problem if our understanding of the issue is flawed.

As Albert Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about the solutions.”

So that is why we have spent so much time out and about in Essex speaking to people about the problem. From those delivering and commissioning services, to those crunching the data, to those living with dementia and their family and friends. They helped us to shape the prize, bring the problem to life and articulate what good would look like.

One such person was Jackie. Jackie founded Other Halves following her husband John's diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease, having found that there was little support to help partners deal with the day to day struggles of living with dementia. The Chelmsford based organisation is a peer support group who enjoy social activities with their partners, providing a much needed opportunity for all of the members to come together, share experiences and provide each other with a helping hand.

Jackie said, “Other Halves is a group to bring us together so we can enjoy life even during this difficult time. It can be very isolating and depressing saying goodbye to the life we knew together and tedious living with someone who has a decreasing memory.

"Carers live with limited yesterday and no tomorrow. It is difficult to make plans and keep connected to the people and places we once knew. Other Halves has provided me with an avenue to share the making of memories and enjoying being together and doing all those things that make life feel good.

"From the very first moment I wake, my energy and focus is on John. This is all consuming and I quickly recognised the importance of my own health and well-being. I always say, if I’m dancing in the kitchen, then John is happy and content too.

"We have always been a very active couple - walking, swimming, going to the gym –but even simple things make this a challenge now.Challenges include everything from navigating the changing facilities to dealing with some people’s attitudes. Both of our worlds are much smaller as a result.

"Being able to do the normal everyday things we did before the diagnosis are really important to us both. I’m interested to see what ideas will come forward through the challenge prize"

Read other first-hand stories of living with dementia:

  • Dementia Voices – Healthwatch Essex spoke to people living with dementia and capture their experiences in this report covering everything from what they did when they received their diagnosis, to how they use the internet.
  • Which me am I today? – Wendy Mitchell was diagnosed with young onset dementia in 2014 and earlier this year became the first person with a dementia diagnosis to publish a memoir.
  • AS Research Network – The Alzheimer’s Society Research Network are people with experience of dementia who play an active role in the research programme.