My first steps as a Dementia Friends Champion

Hi, my name’s Marilyn, I did my Dementia Friends Champions training last November, and I’d like to share my experience so far, because to begin with it was rather nerve racking and maybe others have felt the same. I would like to re assure people that once you make that first step it all starts to fall into place.

I heard about Dementia Friends through my employers, the Guinness Partnership. (Guinness are promoting Dementia Friends and have a target of 100 staff and 100 customers, becoming Dementia Friends). I was immediately drawn to learn more and become a Champion – perhaps because my mother (who passed away in 2002) had dementia, so I knew what it was like to live with the disease.

Once I’d done the training I was really keen to get started, but realised that I’d never stood up in front of an audience and talked on a particular subject before. As a Scheme Manager in Sheltered Housing I’m used to talking to people and holding coffee mornings and meetings, but the idea of preparing (and remembering) enough content to last 45 minutes to an hour and then presenting it in a way that people would enjoy and learn from, suddenly became very daunting. So much paper! How would I remember to say that bit on that sheet, and that bit over the page, oh yes, and  the bit about such and such?!!

I spent time condensing the most important points into a format that flowed and was easy to follow, (without rifling through lots of sheets). I also typed it out in a large bold font, so it would be easier to see and I wouldn’t lose my place. I spent a lot of time as I wanted to be sure that nothing important was left out, but it was so worth it and my first session went so much better than I’d anticipated. I did it with a group of my own residents and was delighted that 11 of them attended.

Once I started speaking, it really did flow; I’d gone through it so many times, actually practising speaking it out loud, and as I said the words ‘I’m passionate about Dementia Friends’ I realised that I really meant it . When you’re speaking about something that you really mean, it’s so much easier. I actually really enjoyed the session, because my residents were genuinely interested and asked questions and talked about their own experiences, some of which were amusing so there was a lot of laughter. One attendee said her action would be to tell all her friends on Facebook, one resident said she’d talk to the organisers at the clubs she goes to and ask if they’d be interested in booking a DF information session, another said she wouldn’t be afraid now, to speak to people with dementia and wouldn’t avoid them, as she’d been doing. Afterwards I felt exhausted but also exhilarated, and ready to do the same thing again.

I’ve got three more sessions booked over the next three or four weeks, and I know that it will become easier with each one. I’ve made 21 Friends up to now and hope to have at least 50, when I’ve done my next three sessions, so have confidence and know that you’re doing a great job, it may be a bit scary at first, but once you get a great reaction from attendees at your first session, you’ll be inspired to keep going!

Marilyn Keegan

Dementia Friends Champion

8 thoughts on “My first steps as a Dementia Friends Champion

  1. Jenny Turner

    Thank you Marilyn for writing the article about your first Dementia Friends session.
    I am about to do my first session ( Monday February 24th ) and I was reassured and encouraged by what you said.

    1. Dementia Friends Post author

      Hi Sarah,

      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. From helping someone to find the right bus to spreading the word about dementia on social media, every action counts. For further information and to find out how you can become a Dementia Friend please visit http://www.dementiafriends.org.uk

  2. victoria gardner

    hi,
    im interested in becoming a dementia friends champion. i have been a support worker, with adults and children with learning disabililties,for 10 years, i feel i could make a difference in people with dementia’s lives. I hope i can be of some help.
    Thanks
    Victoria

  3. beverley norman

    i would be priviledged to be able to help at least 1 person who needs it i have watched my next door neighbour go from being a happy active lady in her late 70′s to not recognising her family become housebound and rely on her husband and children for everything it is heart breaking to see such a dramatic change in the last six months and i would like to help somebody who maybe doesnt have a family local able to help out very much, i suffer with copd a chronic lung condition but i am lucky to have my mind intact and i commend everybody who makes an effort to help others who need it more are badly needed assume ad would be honoured if i was given the opportunity .

    1. Dementia Friends Post author

      Hi Beverley,

      Thank you for your message.

      AA 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. From helping someone to find the right bus to spreading the word about dementia on social media, every action counts. For further information and to find out how you can become a Dementia Friend please visit http://www.dementiafriends.org.uk

      If you are interested in volunteering with people with dementia, you can visit the Alzheimer’s Society website here http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents.php?categoryID=200150 to find opportunities local to you

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