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Discovering Dementia // A very personal dementia podcast

Penny Bell and her mum


Discovering Dementia // A very personal dementia podcast

This week is Dementia Action Week, a national event to bring the public together to improve the lives of people living with dementia. There are several podcasts about dementia from charities – for example the Alzheimer’s Society Podcast. Other podcasts share interviews and conversations about dementia. But one podcast introduces people to dementia a very personal way.

Discovering Dementia is a podcast that was started in 2017 by Penny Bell. From episode one, Penny brings the listener into her family as they learn to live with her mum’s dementia. Episodes are a mix of an audio documentary and interviews with people live with dementia in different ways, and the organisations that help them. It’s a podcast worthy of more attention and we asked Penny more about it.

Tell us about your show! Who are you and what’s your elevator pitch??

The podcast began after my mum was diagnosed with dementia. At the time, we weren’t given a lot of information about the road ahead and what to expect, so I started doing my own research. Then I thought it might be helpful to share what I found out with others who may be interested or going through the same thing. One story seems to lead to the next, so it really is a journey of discovery.

Why podcasting? What is it about the format that appeals to you?

I’ve worked as a nurse and as a radio journalist. Two very different careers but both centre around people and their stories. After bringing up a family, it was this that drew me back into the world of audio, just as podcasting was taking off. I love its free nature, that there are no hard and fast rules, no limitations. You can appeal to a niche group and set your own schedule and format. Episodes are there forever for the audience to dip into whenever they’re ready. Now, there are so many affordable ways to record and produce audio yourself. Podcasting has really opened things up to allow new voices, new stories and new creative ways of telling them to emerge.

I’ve already learnt a lot about dementia from listening to the podcast. If there was one thing listeners took away from your podcast, what would you like them to learn about dementia?

My mum has always been keen to break the stigma that surrounds dementia. It is progressive in nature but there is so much you can still do, especially in the early stages, and you should continue to do the things you love for as long as you can. People living with dementia become experts at living in the moment. Life may be a little bit different, but you are still the same person.

And I think in this instance it is also poignant to ask: do you have a dream listener? Who do you think needs to hear these dementia stories?

This podcast is for anyone who want to know more about dementia for whatever reason. It could be someone living with dementia, a family member or carer, or even professionals working in the field. It has been so comforting to connect with people who really understand the experience of dementia. It’s important to know about the ups and downs so you can feel better prepared and I hope by sharing stories, people will realise they are not alone.

Is there a particular episode that means the most to you?

Each one is special because of the people I’ve met through doing it. But episodes like Season 2 Episode 1, where I am talking to my mum and hearing what she really thinks about living with dementia have been very powerful for me. In this one I also interviewed a scientist about the hopes for future research into dementia. We also talked about the importance of social interaction, something that has been so difficult through the current pandemic. Wherever possible, until covid, I have been out and about recording, so listeners can come with me and learn about things at the same time as I do.

Which podcasts inspire you most?

I am inspired by podcasts that make the most of all that audio has to offer, using creative sound design to build mood and emotion. Today in Focus uses these techniques to tell real life news stories, like in its recent Freshwater mini-series. I also admire podcasts that share the reality of difficult life experiences, like Griefcast. I am constantly amazed by the huge variety of podcasts on offer and try to listen to as many as I can.

Where can the Pod Bible readers find out more about you?

To get in touch, email
Twitter: @dementiapodcast
Instagram: @discoveringdementia

Discovering Dementia

Listen to Discovering Dementia on ACAST, SPOTIFY or your favourite podcast platform.

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