Purple Angel dementia awareness logo goes global

Purple angel poster from Indonesia The purple angel logo has been used in countries including Indonesia

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The Purple Angel dementia awareness logo is very personal to Alzheimer's' sufferer Norman McNamara.

"It's an angel because I call my wife an angel and it's purple because it's a healing colour," he explains.

Mr McNamara, from Torquay, has been campaigning to raise awareness of dementia since he was diagnosed five years ago at the age of 50.

He awards the Purple Angel to organisations which have trained their staff to be "dementia aware".

The logo - inspired by his wife Elaine and designed by amateur artist and fellow campaigner Jane Moore from Camelford, Cornwall - could now become globally recognised.

Organisations across the UK, as well as in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland and Nepal have requested permission to use it.

What is dementia?

  • Dementia is an umbrella term to describe progressive decline in brain functions such as memory, understanding and thinking
  • It causes changes in mood, judgement, personality, and makes it difficult to communicate or cope with everyday tasks
  • About one in 20 people over 65 have dementia. By the age of 80, about one in five are affected
  • Alzheimer's disease is the most common dementia, accounting for two-thirds of cases

Mr McNamara, who is also the man behind Dementia Awareness Day, held every year on 17 September, said: "The world has never had a logo for dementia awareness, we just want this to spread."

Mrs Moore, whose 92-year-old mother Elsie suffers from Alzheimer's' and vascular dementia, said: "The Purple Angel is just a little doodle that I did.

"I am overwhelmed with what it is doing around the world and what a big difference it is making in people's lives.

"I think it represents comfort and hope.

"Everybody likes the thought of having a guardian angel, I know I do as a carer and my mother does.

"She's often told me how frightened she is."

Gary Le Blanc, founder of the US organisation Common Sense Caregiving, is piloting a project to use the Purple Angel logo on wristbands to be worn by dementia patients at Brooksville Hospital in Florida.

He spent four years campaigning for the wristbands after his father, who had dementia, suffered distress in hospital because staff had not been made aware of his condition.

'Reducing stigma'

He said: "My father was in hospital three times and it was a complete nightmare.

Norman McNamara and Jane Moore The Purple Angel logo was the brainchild of dementia campaigners Norman McNamara and Jane Moore

"I'd go outside and come back to find a nurse drilling him for his prescription history when he couldn't even remember what he'd taken ten minutes earlier."

He decided to use the Purple Angel logo on the wristbands to give them "an identity".

"We need to get rid of the stigma of dementia and get the Purple Angel out there," he said.

If the project is a success it could be rolled out at a further 71 hospitals in the United States.

In the UK, staff at 11 community hospitals in south Devon began dementia awareness training three months ago.

The Purple Angel logo is already proudly displayed in the reception areas of Kingsbridge and Teignmouth hospitals, where staff have completed the course.

'National symbol'

Lisa Houlihan, a hospital matron who is leading the Devon project, said: "It has thrown up some really interesting discussions and issues.

"We all come into contact with people who could be affected by dementia."

Mrs Houlihan said she decided to adopt the Purple Angel logo because it would "hopefully become a national one".

She said she hoped that all the south Devon community hospitals would be displaying it by the end of the year.

Mr McNamara said: "Most people who have dementia and those that look after them are not in hospital but live everyday lives and do everyday things just like anybody else.

"This is why we should all know that little bit more about dementia, its symptoms and reasons behind it, so we can react a little better when we come across it."

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