Internet star helps launch guide for living with dementia

A social media sensation helped a Lancashire health action group launch their new guide for families living with dementia.

Simon McDermott’s videos of him singing with his dad, Teddy Mac, went viral after viewers learned that Teddy was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2013 and struggles with poor memory, sometimes forgetting who family members are – that is, until music is played.

From left, Coun Karen Walton, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Safety, Wellbeing and Environmental at South Ribble Borough Council, Anna-Marie Knipe, chairman of the SRDAA, and internet star Simon McDermott

From left, Coun Karen Walton, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Safety, Wellbeing and Environmental at South Ribble Borough Council, Anna-Marie Knipe, chairman of the SRDAA, and internet star Simon McDermott

Simon found that, during a car ride in their Blackburn hometown, Teddy would sing along to old classics on the stereo.

The joy this brought them both blossomed into something even greater – YouTube videos, an album, a book, and more than £130,000 raised for the Alzheimer’s Society – as Teddy became an internet hit as the Songaminute Man.

They received messages and donations from around the world – as far as Japan, America and Sweden, even claiming a Number 3 hit in the Japanese music charts.

The South Ribble Dementia Action Alliance (SRDAA) invited Simon talk to the group and help them launch a new Living Well Guide, packed with useful information and contacts to help those living with dementia along with their carers, friends and families to continue doing the things they enjoy. This includes guidance on Lasting Power of Attorney and other legal and financial support.

Anna-Marie Knipe, chairman of the SRDAA, said: “It was important to get all the Alliance members back in one room to discuss the challenges that those living with dementia and their carers face.

“We were honoured to welcome Simon McDermott, son of the Songaminute Man, to share his experiences with us.

“His stories were simply staggering, eye-opening and heart-warming and his personal account of living with a relative with dementia show that the right support is vital. There is always help at hand and it’s so important to ask for it.

“This is why we have worked hard on our 23-page Living Well Guide which is an absolute must-read for the residents and businesses of South Ribble.”

Simon said: “I’m not usually much of a public speaker – I prefer singing with my Dad! – but it was a pleasure to speak at the latest Dementia Action Alliance meeting in South Ribble.

“I was really impressed by the council’s new Living Well Guide because I am keenly aware that people do need support and advice when they care for someone with dementia. It is not an easy task – it can be stressful, hurtful and anxious – so producing an easy guide like this should really help the people in South Ribble.”

The guide is online, with full information at http://southribblepartnership.org.uk/home/dementia/

Simon and Teddy have made a CD - complete with big band - which is available on www.songaminuteman.com. Adonation is made to the Alzheimer's Society with every CD sold.