Combining the community spirit of Girlguides & Dementia Friends

Dementia Friends Champion Fiona Joines saw the parallels between the aims of Dementia Friends and Girlguiding and set about getting her guiding colleagues on board with the initiative.

‘I have been aware of dementia for some time and was particularly fascinated and saddened by Terry Pratchett’s journey that he so eloquently shared with the world via his documentaries ‘Choosing to Die’ and ‘Living with Alzheimer’s’; both of these gave me a little insight and inspired me to do something. We are all likely to be impacted by Dementia in our life and so, I feel we have a responsibility to learn a little about it. That’s where Dementia Friends came in. It made sense to me that people needed to be able to talk about dementia and to feel comfortable doing so and I knew with the facilitator skills I have, I could help people to do this.

‘I searched online for a Dementia Friends Information Session but was unable to find one to Oxford, in fact the nearest event I could find was a Dementia Champion course in Swindon; so I signed up!

‘I’ve since led several Dementia Friends Information Sessions and made over 100 Dementia Friends almost all of whom are also members of Girlguiding. I made the decision early on that I wanted to spread the message of Dementia Friends through the Guiding community as I have been a member almost my whole life and the 2 groups have so much in common. We both want and contribute to kind and caring communities, we both carry out social actions to make this happen and we want to educate the community in a non-formal way.

‘In September I had an email from Mary, the Region Chief Commissioner for Anglia asking if I could deliver the Dementia Friends Session after dinner at an event for 30 lead volunteers across the region. She wanted to spark a large scale project that encouraged girls and leaders to take action in their communities and she hoped Dementia Friends could form a  part of that. I said yes and got ready, the lead volunteers I was working with that evening are strong, independent, positive women and many were likely to have had personal experiences of dementia, it was certainly going to be different to running a Session with Brownies!

‘The Session was well received, with lots of laughter and the leaders participated and shared generously throughout. There was a lovely story about a ‘locksmith’ in a local retirement village. The ‘locksmith’ works with residents with dementia to help ‘unlock’ memories.

‘The story in the Information Session about the lady who ‘taps’ all the time prompted the sharing of a story of a lady known to one participant who kept lifting the front of her skirt to the surprise, shock and embarrassment of carers. However, on investigation, they found that she was reliving a memory of collecting apples with her Grandma. On reassuring her they had enough apples today, she would put her skirt down and continue with her day.

‘The leaders committed to a range of actions some agreeing to wear their badge and share the messages with others, some passing on the information in their county meetings, and one leader has decided to create a Guiding memory box containing items from guiding history that might spark memories for people who had been involved in their childhood, she’ll share this with the local Trefoil Guild. This led to another participant explaining how our badge tab has been used for this very purpose and had a powerful impact.

‘I am very proud to be a Dementia Friends Champion and feel very privileged to be able to share the message with Girlguiding.’

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