How do I respond when someone shares a personal experience during my Session?
When running a session, as a Dementia Friends Champions, you will have participants sharing a personal experience or situation with you, and it can be difficult to know how to respond appropriately and sensitively. Here are some ideas on how best to approach this.
To start with, it is always important to set expectations before the beginning of the Information Session. You should remind people to begin with that you are not an ‘expert in dementia’. Also let people know that it is ok if they want to step outside the Session if they get upset or find it difficult. This will help if someone shares a personal experience and becomes emotional when talking about it.
Thank them for sharing the personal experience
The information and ideas during the session can promote both positive and negative reactions, and irrespective of that it is always important to acknowledge someone’s contribution. So first thing to do is to thank someone for their contribution, it shows it is valued. You can use phrases like ‘Thank you so much for sharing’ and ‘Really powerful to hear that, thank you’.
Signpost them to someone
Sometimes the personal experience being shared is leading to a question or comment about support available, or how they should have dealt with a particular situation. This is when we can use this as an opportunity to signpost someone, as it may be useful for them to seek further information. Remember the action cards also signpost attendees to available support.
Returning to your material
If someone is sharing a positive experience then you can return to your materials by saying something like ‘ Thank you so much, that’s a really good example of…’ and then relate it back to where you are in the Information Session. Even if the experience feels negative, you can still support this by perhaps saying ‘Thank you for sharing, really sorry to hear that, this really goes to show how important it is that we all increase our understanding’.
Remember that if anyone shares an experience with you that makes you concerned about their safety and well-being, then this is something you cannot keep a secret. This comes under safe-guarding, and you can find guidance on what to do in these situations, in your Champions handbook or on the resources tab of your Champions dashboard on the website. It is very rare this happens but it is good to be familiar with the procedure just in case.
I hope this help, and as ever if you would like to talk about this further do please get in contact with your DFO.