Belfast Telegraph

Art installation in former care home puts focus on dementia

By Leona O'Neill

An artist has taken over an abandoned old people's home to exhibit work she hopes will allow people to step into the mind of a dementia sufferer.

Sue Morris's Unfamiliar Familiar went on display at Nazareth House, a former orphanage and elderly care home at Bishop Street in Londonderry, last night.

The exhibition explores how everyday spaces and normal activities can become alien or frightening because the brain is reading things in a different way.

Almost 16,000 people in Northern Ireland live with dementia, a disease with far-reaching social and economic impacts, yet one that is little understood or widely discussed in public.

Sue hopes her work will mean it is better understood.

"There is a common misconception that dementia is about memory loss," she said. "Memory loss is only one small part of dementia.

"The main part is about brain damage, and it damages very complex areas of the brain, which affect things like language, spatial navigation and perception and social awareness, so in many ways those are a lot more problematic for people with dementia than memory loss.

"It really affects how they negotiate and navigate their everyday lives in terms of spaces and objects and situations.

"So I've tried to provide an environment where the audience gets a sense of what it may be like to experience dementia."

Sue explained how her grandmother had dementia and was looked after in the family home by close relatives.

She said the issue was touching more and more people.

"I suppose it's on the horizon for everyone and I'm trying to get people engaged with that," she added.

"The more we understand how dementia affects the everyday life of someone and how they are interpreting and experiencing the world, the more our response can be effective and be supportive of that person."

Belfast Telegraph

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