An email came into my inbox; subject ‘Do you want to create 1,000 Dementia Friends in a single morning?’ My gut reaction was ‘Yes please but how?’
This is how:
As part of Poole High School’s health fair, the school wanted to offer all the year 7, 8 and 9 students the chance to become a Dementia Friend. They explained that they wanted a special 25 minute session for groups of 170 pupils at a time. Eek! At this point I knew I’d definitely need some help. Thankfully, a group of eight brave Dementia Friends Champions stepped up to the mark.
Together with the Dementia Friends team I developed a special pilot Dementia Friends session that covered the five key messages and the bookcase analogy and ended with a call to action. On the day, each Champion facilitated a table of 20 pupils and I the bulk of the session from the stage. Each table had the missing key words from the five key messages. I went through each message and asked the pupils to hold up what they thought the missing word was. I then explained each statement getting the pupils to answer some questions as I went along.
It was an amazing experience to have 170 12 and 13 years olds shouting ‘NO’ at me when I asked ‘Do you think everyone who gets old gets dementia?’ or ‘YES’ when I asked ‘Do you think people with dementia can still dance?’ There was silence and concentration in the room when I told them about the lady with dementia who helped crack the enigma code and a definite nodding to ‘it just goes to show there really is more to the person than dementia’.
For the bookcase analogy, the Champions facilitating on the tables supported the pupils to fill a bookcase picture with memories and feelings. I then explained the impact that dementia can have on a person using their bookcases to illustrate this. I ended it with the message ‘Try not to get upset if someone with dementia forgets some things and to remember that how the person feels is more important than getting facts right’.
After this it was time for actions. From ‘I’m going to visit my granny more often’ to ‘I’m going to find out about volunteering’ to ‘I’m going to be kind and patient when I’m out and about’ every single action really will make a difference. There was a resounding ‘YES’ when I asked ‘Would you like to be a Dementia Friend?’ which was another highlight for me.
Afterwards, the head teacher told me that what she wanted to achieve by hosting the session was to demystify dementia for the pupils and plant a little seed in each of them that the school could nurture and build on. It really is about creating a Dementia Friendly Generation.
Thanks to Champion Katie Bolton from the Alzheimer’s Society Road show for all her organising and thank to Champions: Jo Malyon, Ruth Crosland, Les Hickman, Sara Haysom, Jenny White, Anne Weston and Chris Scriven for helping out on the day.
Have you got connections to a school and would you like to run a similar session? Get in contact with your RSO and they will be able to support you in running this type of session.