Dementia – Umh, where do I start, well, until about 3 years ago I can honestly say I knew nothing about this “word”. Then, in my role as Training & Development Co-ordinator, I was asked to become involved in some training that was being delivered by our experts in CPG, that’s when the rollercoaster of involvement, learning, discovering, challenges, emotions and life changing experience’s began.
To begin with I attended many meetings with Alison Harvey, Mental Health Liaison lead & Brenda Fitzpatrick, Mental Health Practitioner. We talked through what CPG staff needed in respect of training on Dementia and how it all linked in with Health Education Yorkshire and the Humber. They are heavily involved in collating details in our area of who has been trained and to what level which is all very analytical and Strategic so it wasn’t until a while later that I began to understand what Dementia was all about.
Alison & Brenda are both clearly passionate about their roles and show a deep set desire to support the people they come into contact with on a daily basis. It was through them that my journey into the world of Dementia began………
While going through the training materials available to us I became more and more curious and intrigued and after sitting in on Alison & Brenda’s awareness sessions I decided I needed to have more involvement in raising awareness locally and nationally.
What is a Dementia Friend?
After a bit of research and advice from Alison & Brenda I decided to enrol onto Dementia Friends Champion Training. I checked out the website and read the following :-
“A Dementia Friends Champion is a volunteer who encourages others to make a positive difference to people living with dementia in their community. They do this by giving them information about the personal impact of dementia, and what they can do to help.
It's easy to get involved. Dementia Friends Champions will attend a training session, receive support when they need it, and be part of over 10,500 volunteer Dementia Friends Champions creating dementia friendly communities(external link) together”.
Incredibly what happened next I could never have foreseen, I became directly involved in the care of 2 people very dear to me who both were diagnosed with dementia, so my mind was even more firmly set on finding out more.
So, one rainy day in May I travelled to Doncaster to attend Dementia Friends Champion training run by a lovely young lady named Becky from the Alzheimer’s society. The other people attending were from all walks of life with many different reasons for being there. It was very clear early on that we all shared the same ambition of raising awareness on a vast scale of the impact on individuals and family units of this progressive disease.
We spent the day going through the training package as if we were attendees on a Dementia Friends session and then Becky went through it with us from the presenter’s point of view on how we would be delivering it. The last part of the day was spent preparing for the daunting task of delivering a section of the session to the rest of the group so Becky could gauge if we were up to the job. Fortunately I was deemed “good to go” and received a full pack of all the materials I would need to run my own sessions together with links to the Dementia Friends website to record the sessions I would be running and receive updates on materials etc.
What is involved in being a Dementia Friend?
For those of you who may not know what a Dementia Friend is, here is a brief description from the website:-
“A Dementia Friend learns a little bit more about what it's like to live with dementia and then turns that understanding into action - anyone of any age can be a Dementia Friend. Whether you attend a face-to-face Dementia Friends Information Session or watch our online video, Dementia Friends is about learning more about dementia and the small ways you can help. From telling friends about Dementia Friends to visiting someone you know living with dementia, every action counts.”
Just a couple of actions Dementia Friends have been happy to share that I particularly loved from the website are:-
'My action is to make an effort to spend more time with my Nanna who is living with dementia'
‘I will be scanning all my father’s old photographs from childhood onto the computer so he can see these more regularly.’
I think it’s important for me to tell you that I learnt such a lot from this day, even though I’d attended the Dementia Friend’s session previously I took different messages from it this time around. For those of you who have already attended I’m sure it will make sense when I say “seeing the Brain as a bunch of Fairy lights”, and considering “Two Book cases, one full of books containing memories over the years of my life and the other with books of my feelings and emotions corresponding to those memories”. Both of those analogies had an impact on me and I hope I’m doing them justice when delivering the sessions myself.
As far as the National campaign goes :-
“We now have over one million Dementia Friends across England and Wales, who are going out into their communities with a greater understanding of dementia and some of the ways they can help people living with the condition. From being more patient in shop queues, to volunteering, to campaigning for change, Dementia Friends are helping to create communities in which people living with dementia feel more understood and included.
And we’re not stopping there! As part of Alzheimer's Society's long-term commitment to help more communities and businesses become dementia-friendly, a new target of creating four million Dementia Friends by 2020 has been set.
Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme is our biggest ever initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia.
Dementia touches the lives of millions of people across the UK. Dementia Friends was launched to tackle the stigma and lack of understanding that means many people with the condition experience loneliness and social exclusion. We need to create more communities and businesses that are dementia friendly so that people affected by dementia feel understood and included.”
Sharing what I have learnt
Since attending the training, so far, I’ve delivered 4 sessions resulting in 72 people confirming they would like to be Dementia Friends. This isn’t a huge amount and I’m still very keen to do more but “slowly, slowly, catchy monkey”.
Dementia Friends has been incorporated into the CPG Induction programme in the hope that all staff will become Dementia Friends particularly as the impact of Dementia on many of the services we offer is increasing. I’m now hoping to expand the sessions to be open to the general public and advertise them more widely perhaps starting in my local village.
If you’d like more information on becoming a Dementia Friends Champion or attending a Dementia Friends Session please check out the website https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk .
If you want to find out more about Alzheimer’s in particular, this is a great website to start you off https://www.alzheimers.org.uk
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