Carole Dudley, Scout leader of the Blacklands Scouts, Malling District, tells us how getting her Scout group involved with the A Million Hands project and focussing on dementia had a real impact on her own life and career:
‘As a Scout leader with the Blacklands Scouts in East Malling, I was really excited to get my group started with the A Million Hands partnership. So we took our group camping at Morfa Bay in Wales and showed the Scouts videos for each of the different issues they could choose to focus on. After some discussion, they settled on dementia as their chosen issue.
‘To kick things off, we invited a volunteer Dementia Friends Champion in to run a Dementia Friends Information Session for us. The group then used their A Million Hands dementia resource pack, put together by Alzheimer’s Society, to support their programme activities and take the next steps. Feeling informed, the group went on to conduct dementia-friendly audits of their local area – the leisure centre, the church, the library and a walkthrough of their village – and they put together a checklist including how dementia-friendly the signage and flooring was.
‘I was so inspired by the work our Scout group was doing that I shared some of the learnings with my staff at the Acute Medical Unit I manage at Maidstone Hospital and assigned some of them to become ‘dementia champions’ of the ward. Together they made a Dementia Activity Box, filled with photos to use in reminiscence, as well as puzzles, colouring books and Twiddlemuffs! Staff found that if patients who had dementia were bored, they could become quite agitated so the Activity Box really helped. I also led the culture change in work, recognising that by asking one staff member to take time to interact with a patient with dementia, rather than being on the ward, then it can make the situation easier and more relaxed for everyone. The dementia activity box was such a success that I wrote to the hospital league of friends to tell them about the them and they have kindly agreed to supply the funding for every ward to receive one, thereby ensuring all patients have access to activities while in hospital – success!
‘Following that, a secondment role for a Dementia Nurse Facilitator became available and, despite feeling nervous, I felt so passionate about the issue that I went for it!
‘I’ve now had a complete career shift – from management to focusing on dementia care – and am about to start an MSc in dementia studies at the University of Brighton. At work, I’m looking to extend my role to cover A&E, meaning that patients with dementia would receive a meet and greet service, which may prevent unnecessary admissions by mobilising community services to support a person and their carer.
‘I’m also now a Dementia Friends Champion and I’m planning on running Dementia Friends Information Sessions for Scout groups throughout the district.
‘A visit from a Dementia Friends Champion along with all the activities we were doing really sparked my interest in dementia and that interest turned into a real passion. I never imagined that a year later I would have such a change in career path. I love my job and look forward to going to work every day.
‘We all know that Scouting has a positive impact on the young people that belong to the movement, I now feel that it can have a huge impact on the adults too. The unexpected outcome of me running the A Million Hands programme with my Scouts has been me finding my true passion in nursing.
‘If it hadn’t been for A Million Hands, and my Scout troop picking dementia, I would never have got to where I am now.’