Residents of Shiregreen Estate in Sheffield have become Dementia Friends, thanks to a special event held by Sanctuary Housing to mark World Alzheimer’s Month this September.
18 local residents joined Sanctuary staff members at a Dementia Friends Information Session on 21 September, led by the housing provider’s community investment project officer Cherry Shagan, who is also a Dementia Friends Champion.
Set up to commemorate World Alzheimer’s Month, the Session encouraged attendees to carry out a range of activities – like volunteering, campaigning for positive change or visiting someone living with dementia – to help create a more dementia-friendly community.
We want to make it as easy as possible for as many people as possible to become Dementia Friends. The Dementia Friends team is developing a number of different resources to help Dementia Friends Champions meet the needs of audiences who may have specific requirements.
Dementia Friends Champion Kristy Adams spent Dementia Awareness Week raising awareness and taking action on a big scale when she made an entire school Dementia Friends.
Kristy had been working with Robert Napier School on an intergenerational relationship project with the aim of, as Kristy says ‘reducing stigma surrounding young people and older people, building confidence and relationships of both groups and reducing isolation and dependency for older people’. As part of the project, students have been visiting a local care home and meeting some of the residents.
Rather than easing in to her role as a Dementia Friends Champion and starting with a small first Session, Cecile Mallett decided to just jump right in at the deep end. Her first Session as a Champion was delivered to 80 Year 2 Physiotherapy students at the Cardiff School of Physiotherapy. Cecile tells us how the Session came about:
Dementia Friends Champion Emma has been delivering Information Sessions in schools. Here she tells us what the response has been like from the children and gives us some top tips…
“I wanted to run Dementia Friends Sessions in schools from the word go. I love the way children soak up everything like sponges, unlike adults, they have no pre-conceived ideas about dementia. Maybe they just see it as Grandma being funny but they never see it as a bad thing. I have worked with year 4 children upwards – every age group has got something out of it. Even when you think they’re not listening it seems to go in!
During September and October, over 1000 healthcare students at Southbank University have become Dementia Friends as part of their university induction. Those studying nursing, social work, occupational therapy, radiography, operating department practice and midwifery courses have all taken part in an Information Session to learn about dementia and some of the small ways they can help those living with dementia.
In order to create a dementia-friendly generation of healthcare professionals it is important to reach healthcare students at the start of their studies. The response from students has been very positive with one student saying “I have really benefitted from this session. I did not know much about dementia so this really helped.” Another student pledged to “be more supportive, patient and understanding with people in public who display possible signs of dementia.”
The sessions are delivered by a team of academic staff who have completed Dementia Friends Champion training. Professor Lesley Baillie is a Dementia Friends Champion and has been leading the delivery of the sessions: “We believe that ensuring all students learn the five key messages about dementia at the start of their studies is a great start, which will be built on as they learn more about dementia during their courses.”
The university plans to continue with delivering the Information Sessions to all new students and is also aiming to offer Dementia Friends sessions more widely across the University, to other students through the Student Centre and to university staff through the staff development.
If you are interested in attending a Dementia Friends Information Session, search for one near you.
I was fortunate to come across the Dementia Friends website late last year as I was researching for my Open University module in Dementia Care which I’ve subsequently completed.
I undertook my Champions training day in January in Exeter, Devon, with Camilla Alfred but it was April until I really got started on my champion journey.
One of my greatest fears in life has always been public speaking and yet it’s always been something I’ve been driven to conquer and feel comfortable with. My personality is determined, driven and passionate and I believe this comes across when I deliver the information sessions but that doesn’t come without trepidation I can tell you.
My confidence is growing and to date I have 100 Dementia Friends with a goal of up to 150 by the end of this year. I have 3 public Dementia Friends Information Sessions booked over the next few months at my local Sainsbury’s, Costa Coffee and Library. I have also been requested to visit my local health centre and deliver a staff session.
I must say I have been proactive with organising sessions and believe my passion in changing the public’s perception of dementia in my community is evident when I speak.
Some stress reliever tips which may be useful for other Dementia Champions include:
- Positive affirmations in the days leading up the session which may be: “I am a confident and competent Dementia Friends Champion and deliver my sessions with ease”. Naturally this affirmation may not suit everyone and is merely an idea, the words can be adapted to what feels right for the individual.
- Deep breaths are always a good grounding technique and I recommended breathing in for 7 and out for 11.
- I also have lavender pulse point oil which I often put on my wrists, another excellent grounding technique.
With passion and self-belief we can conquer our fears, onwards and upwards everyone…
When I was 19 my father endured a huge haemorrhagic stroke that left him completely paralysed down his right, and now 6 years later is in the final stages of vascular dementia. My mum, my sisters and I have been witness to every stage and constantly having to adapt to a ‘new dad’. My parents have been married for over 30 years, but sadly he no longer knows who my mum is anymore.
When I heard of the Dementia Friends Champions training I knew it was immediately something I wanted to hear about and be a part of. The training was a great day, dispelling any misconceptions I had, such as dementia just being for old people, and how often the media can get it so horribly wrong. Hearing the stories of the others in the training made me realise how different it can affect everybody of any age from all walks of life. I’m also a final 4th year speech and language therapist, on my placements I have encountered many patients with dementia, by attending the training I hope to implement the skills I learnt into my clinical practice and support patients better in the future. As a champion I can now deliver Dementia Friends Information Sessions to my fellow students and help them to create dementia friendly communities. It’s not just great for all of us involved in clinical professions, I also made friends with a girl on the Champions training who had just graduated in finance from a top London university, she told me how dementia awareness is crucial with assisting clients with their finances- therefore I definitely feel the training is relevant to all degree disciplines because inevitably we will all go into the working world and meet a huge scope of people.
It’s part of our role in society to take responsibility to changing attitudes towards Dementia, by becoming “aware” we can no doubt shift previous stigmas and misconceptions, and move in to a dementia aware society. By becoming a champion I hope to play a part in this huge social action movement – Dementia Friends, and create copious amounts of dementia friends… small steps but huge gains. Another key message is that it is the first campaign I have been involved in which aren’t after money, just peoples time to sit still long enough to listen to the importance of being aware of this harrowing illness.
Dementia Friends Champion
Peter Student was inspired to join Dementia Friends after his 93 year-old great aunt and then his 63 year-old aunt were diagnosed with dementia. He did his Champions’ training session over two Thursday evenings, which he found easy to fit around work commitments.
Peter says he’s always been motivated to put something back into his community and found the training really helpful.
“I spoke to a few people during the sessions and we all said the same – what’s great about those sessions is that you get to learn what you don’t know. You get confidence about using the right nomenclature and how to point people in the right direction. You are not an expert, not a nurse, not a practitioner – but you are there to help a few more people understand what it’s like to live with dementia and help create more dementia friendly communities. With the right support in place, people can live well with dementia.”
Peter has been giving some thought about how he can help more people to understand more about dementia. He’s hoping to run a lunchtime ‘talk and learn’ session in his workplace. He works in the music industry in a company of 700 people and the lunchtime talks happen every other month attended by around 40 people.
He thinks the Dementia Friends Champions’ resources he got at the end of his Champions’ session and downloads from the website will really help him structure a lunchtime session.
However, he also has a plan B up his sleeve. His girlfriend organises a monthly community event where local people come to a bring-and-buy sale to share and talk. Peter is confident he can get a stall at April’s event where he can hand out information about Dementia Friends and direct people to the website.
“Any involvement is going to help, no action is too big or too small – if you live in a village with 30 people and run one session for those 30 people then that’s great, or you can have ambitions to fill a stadium! It’s all about creating more inclusive communities.”
This is a lovely story from Mike Gale, an Alzheimer’s Society trainer who has been running some initial Dementia Friends information sessions while our newly trained Dementia Friends Champions get set up. It’s a powerful testimony to the amazing connections and coincidences that can happen through Dementia Friends – one Dementia Friend at a time.
On the way back from facilitating a Dementia Friends’ information session at The Space, Norwich, I ended up running an impromptu session for a fellow train traveller. And it was all because of the decorative gorillas.There had been two large plastic gorillas guarding the entrance to our training room at the venue (one in Norwich City FC colours, the other designed to be a Freddie Mercury lookalike – sadly no pictures!). We started discussing them and I found out they form part of a wider exhibition of gorillas around Norwich this spring will eventually be auctioned to support a local charity, Break.
Talking about gorillas brought us on to talking about the real reason I’d been there – the Dementia Friends information sessions. My fellow traveller, Alicia, a Senior Account Manager for a regional newspaper business, said she had cared for her mother, who had Alzheimer’s, for a number of years before she passed away in the mid-1990s. Alicia had seen the launch of Dementia Friends on BBC News and BBC Breakfast and enthusiastically welcomed my offer to run an information session before she got off the train at Ipswich. So, out came the bingo cards and the tea-making and penny exercises (see Angela’s blog below), and away we went.
At the end I gave her a Dementia Friends badge and told her how to set up a Dementia Friends account on dementiafriends.org.uk. Alicia’s first Dementia Friends action was going to be encouraging her daughter, a primary school teacher, to attend the next Dementia Friends Champions’ training in Norwich. It’s on Saturday 6 April, if anyone else would like to join us – just go to the website to book.