Category Archives: Dementia Friends News

Get inspired to #DoSomethingNew for Dementia Awareness Week 2015

For Dementia Awareness Week 2015 (17-23 May), we are encouraging all our Dementia Friends Champions to #DoSomethingNew – it could be that you run your first outdoor Session at the local park, do a Session in the middle of the night or run a Session for a group you’ve never delivered to before.

Val Mathewson ran a Session for her brother on his canal boat

Lots of our Champions are already running interesting and unusual Sessions across the country, such as Mandy Rowlands who ran a Session at a city farm in Southampton. The farm was looking to run farm experience days for people with dementia and so Mandy stepped in to help.

‘The staff were keen to have a little more understanding of dementia and so we invited their staff to become Dementia Friends and I ran the session for them at the farm. It was great as they introduced me to all the small animals including a sugar glider!’

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Creating a more dementia-friendly NHS

Sisters and Dementia Friends Champions Jude Andrews & Di Roberts have set themselves the impressive task of running 26 Dementia Friends Information Sessions over eight weeks for staff at the Royal Derby Hospital, including four Sessions on NHS Change Day on the 11th March.

Jude and Di attended Champions training in December 2013. After taking a short break from running Information Sessions, they took part in the Getting Started webinar which helped them to re-energise and come up with the idea for their challenge. We spoke to Jude and Di to find out why they became Dementia Friends Champions and how they’ve been rolling out the Information Sessions to hospital staff:

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A poem to celebrate 2014 & Dementia Friends

Regional Suppor Officer Philippa penned this wonderful poem looking back on 2014 and Dementia Friends.

Let’s celebrate!

2014 is coming to an end
What a year it has been!
From one Dementia Friend to another Friend
Let’s recall everything we have seen

We’ve seen our ticker go up and up
Over 1/2 a million friends made
This isn’t just down to good luck
And I apologise if this sounds cliched

It’s all down to hard work and passion
Of which we should be very proud
We’ve put our words into action
Everyone, let’s spread the word loud

Friends, Champions and many more
You’ve helped to raise understanding
Never forget who we’re doing this for
And why we keep on expanding

Let’s break down the stigma and fear
Let’s talk about dementia
Let’s make the messages clear
To put on everyone’s agenda

Together we can make a difference
So a big thank you to all
For all your effort and persistence
Young, old, great and small

Bring on 2015!

Volunteer at Memory Walk 2014


Memory Walk Swansea

Keith Jeavons will be volunteering at Memory Walk 2014 and is described by Alan Drury, the Community Fundraiser in Swansea, as “the backbone of volunteering and fundraising in the area”.  Keith is a Dementia Friend, Fundraising Ambassador and Local Rep.

Why did you decide to volunteer?

I have been a volunteer in Swansea for 11 years, since my mother was diagnosed with Vascular Dementia and had to be moved into a nursing home. I wished to learn more about the condition, of which I knew very little.  I spoke with someone I knew at Alzheimer’s Society and I was asked to become a volunteer and my involvement has escalated since.  As an early retired business bank manager I was able to bring my previous financial skills to the local branch of the Society.

I have been Chairman of the Committee of the old Swansea Branch, before the days of locality management and I have stayed with the Society through all of its subsequent changes.

I am a Dementia Friend having attended an Information Session in my local area and am committed to making my community more dementia-friendly by being patient and helpful to people who are living with dementia.  

I have taken part in every Memory Walk since they were introduced and been heavily involved for the past 4 years. Last year we raised an incredible £67,000 and this year we are hoping to raise an even greater sum.

I have taken part in all Swansea Memory Walks since their inception and I always volunteer to help at the Walks as they are the biggest fundraising event and highlight of the Society’s Calendar.

What was your role as a Volunteer?

After assisting with the unloading of the vehicles, from around 6:00 am, I will be helping to erect the gazebos and generally helping where needed. As last year, I will be erecting the direction signs for the walkers around the Walk route, together with a fellow volunteer, commencing virtually at first light.  On returning to the main Start/Finish Line Event Area I will be helping out anywhere I’m needed and then again helping with packing up at the end of the day.

What was the best part of the day? And the worst?

Best – Seeing such a wonderful turn out, whilst watching walkers of all ages and abilities, setting off to walk either the 2km or the 10km distances and then seeing all of them return, knowing that they have raised a considerable amount of money for the Alzheimer’s Society.  This combined with the incredible amount of money which we hopefully will have raised and exceeding last year’s £67,000.

Worst – Bad weather. Hopefully it will once again be as beautifully sunny and warm as it was last year, but in 2012 the heavens opened within minutes of the walk having started and everyone returned soaked to the skin.  We had a Samba Band which had planned to play along the route but this had to be abandoned.

What are you looking forward to about Memory Walk 2014?

Similar things to the best parts of the day – the key factor being a good number of people walking, raising lots of money.  Seeing carers and people with dementia walking together with the sole aim of raising a considerable amount of money for the Society which can be used to improve the lives of people affected by dementia and eventually, hopefully, find a cure for this debilitating and degenerative disease. 

How can people volunteer at Memory Walk 2014?

It takes over 1,500 enthusiastic volunteers to make Memory Walk a magic day, people can help out on the day by setting up site, marshalling the route, running fundraising stalls, and much more! Check out the volunteering roles or contact the Memory Walk team for more information. 

Kent Fire and Rescue Service staff promote Dementia Friends

As part of its pledge to help people with dementia live safely and independently for as long as possible, Kent Fire and Rescue (KFRS) continues to raise awareness of dementia. So far, four members of our staff have signed up to volunteer as Dementia Friends Champions and we will be encouraging others to follow.  Over 200 members of KFRS have attended face-to-face Dementia Friends Information Sessions. Staff are using these awareness building Information Sessions to help ensure that families and carers are aware of the potential fire risks associated with people living with dementia in their homes. Through the home safety visits we carry out we are able to highlight preventative measures available to help reduce the risk of fires and accidents in the homes of people with dementia.

Our Fire-fighters who have already become Dementia Friends have found it to be a real eye opener. It’s given us a far better understanding of what it’s like to live with dementia, what to look for when attending incidents and how we can help people stay independent and safe in their own homes for as long as possible. Fire crews around the county are signing up to become Dementia Friends. One watch has confirmed that every member will volunteer as Dementia Friends Champions in their effort to make a positive difference to people living with dementia in their community.

During Dementia Awareness Week (18-24 May) KFRS attended a range of events and support groups to highlight the services our Vulnerable People team are able to provide people in the early stages of dementia to help reduce the risk of fire in the home.

Everyone needs to be aware of fire risks and the help available to them. A person with dementia may get forgetful, leaving burners on after cooking, or letting pans boil over. Phoning the fire service may not be the first thing you think of when you or someone you care for is diagnosed with dementia, but by making a free call to KFRS, we can provide practical advice and fit safety devices, such as smoke alarms and cooker shut off switches to help people stay safe.

Thames-side Green Watch and KFRS’s Vulnerable People Liaison Officer, Rachael Spencer attended a special ‘Dementia Adventure’ event in Gravesend (21 May), designed to encourage the development of networking groups for people living with dementia. To celebrate the launch of three Dementia Friendly Community forums in Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley,  Rachael delivered Dementia Friends Information Sessions to volunteers at the Thanet Community Support Partnership meeting in Ramsgate (23 May). KFRS hosted two Dementia Friends Information Sessions at Sessions House in Maidstone (21 and 22 May) for Kent County Council staff and members of the public to get a better understanding of the fire risks associated with the care and protection of people with dementia in their communities.

Kent Fire and Rescue (KFRS)


Why Dementia Friends is so important to break down barriers

The Dementia Friends initiative is a very special thing it’s about breaking down the barriers and misconceptions that surround this illness. The layout and training you receive is excellent. The first part of the training day is to make you a Dementia friend, once you’ve accomplished that it’s on with the training. It’s a very easy format with just enough information without sensory overload. It’s quick and to the point without becoming too technical or boring. A selection of activities are also used to illustrate the problems people with dementia have in their daily living routines, reiterating the five points about dementia, which are :-

  1. It’s not a part of getting old
  2. It’s caused by diseases of the brain – the most common being Alzheimer’s
  3. It’s not just about losing your memory
  4. People can live well with dementia with the right support and understanding
  5. There is more to the person than the dementia

The message of Dementia Friends came across really strongly and everyone was so enthusiastic. It’s a fantastic and simple idea that will make a real difference to the lives of people with dementia. It’s all about getting the message out there and expelling the myths and preconceptions that revolve around people with this condition.

By going around as many people and groups as we can we will be helping to improve the day-to-day lives of people with dementia and allow them to live normal lives for longer which in turn allows them more time at home with their loved ones, keeping people out of homes and saving the NHS millions! It has now rolled out to Wales where we attended the launch and actually ran an info session for Lloyd’s Bank for ITV in the morning prior. Watch the ITV interview here.

So it’s up to us to take responsibility to change the attitude towards dementia; by becoming “aware” we can shift previous stigmas and misconceptions, creating a dementia aware society and creating dementia friendly communities.

By becoming Dementia Friends Champions, we (the wife and I) hope to play a part in this huge social action movement, and create 100’s of dementia friends.

It is estimated that there are over 45,500 people living with dementia in Wales; two-thirds of them live in the community. Yet sadly they don’t feel part of our community, but with help and support people with dementia can play an active part for sometimes many years.
It’s all about turning understanding into action, it’s about educating people.

As I said earlier the wife, Jayne, and I do our sessions together – as a team. Why you may ask, well it’s a necessity :-

  1. It’s different, people quite enjoy the towing and frowing!
  2. We work well together; we’re a team in the house and out!

But the biggest reason, is that she is there to support me because at the young- ish age of 52 years, I have Vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s, a form of mixed dementia, so if I can be a Dementia Friends Champion any of you can do it! So please do! So you see it is possible to live with dementia, especially when you have understanding and support! Which is what Dementia Friends is all about and which is why we enjoy being part of this fabulous initiative.

Chris Roberts

Dementia Friends Champion

Uni student volunteers for the social action movement – Dementia Friends

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.

Dayna Clarke

Dementia Friends Champion

Dementia Tsar becomes a Dementia Friends Champion

To say I was nervous about training Alistair Burns to be a Dementia Friends Champion would be an understatement. He is the Dementia Tsar, the man who is to dementia what Lord Sugar is to business or Mary Portas is to the High Street.  I was in my third week in post at Dementia Friends and I was supposed to be training him?

Professor Alistair Burns (MBChB, FRCP, FRCPsych, MD, MPhil, DHMSA) is Professor of Old Age Psychiatry at The University of Manchester, Editor of the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and the National Clinical Director for Dementia, among many other roles. His research and clinical interests are in mental health problems of older people, particularly dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. He has published over 300 papers and 25 books.

Alistair came to Alzheimer’s Society’s headquarters in London’s St Katharine’s Dock at the end of a busy day of meetings in Westminster.

We started off by going over what is covered in a Dementia Friends information session- we played bingo (not really a one player game!) and we talked about our five key messages:

– Dementia is not a natural part of ageing

– Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain

– Dementia is not just about losing your memory

– It is possible to live well with dementia

– There is more to the person than the dementia

I then braced myself before launching into the Bookcase Analogy. For those of you not familiar with this, it explains dementia in very basic terms, in a way that anyone can understand. I’d heard it at my first information session, loved it and used it at every information session since. However, now that I was describing it to the Dementia Tsar, I was not so confident… I needn’t have worried- he loved it! He’d never heard it before but agreed with the content and promised to use it in his own sessions.

Having Alistair as a Dementia Friends Champion is fantastic. He has a huge circle of influence- he regularly attends hospital meetings with a wide variety of organisations. It is at those meetings that he has been delivering Dementia Friends Information Sessions.

So, Champions… Next time you are leading a game of dementia bingo, or standing next to an imaginary bookcase, think of all the other people doing the same thing, from Plymouth to Newcastle. Our Champions are the most important part of our programme- we won’t reach one million people, you will! Thank you

Natalie Rodriguez is the Operations Manager for Dementia Friends. She trained Professor Alistair Burns as a Dementia Friends Champion.

Dementia 2013 report shows how urgent it is to join Dementia Friends

Laura Cook, Policy Officer at Alzheimer's Society

Laura Cook, Policy Officer at Alzheimer’s Society

Laura Cook, Policy Officer at Alzheimer’s Society, was a researcher on an important new report on how people are living with dementia. She highlights the main findings and tells us why it is important that you join Dementia Friends.

Dementia 2013: The hidden voice of loneliness was launched on 9 April. It is the second annual report from Alzheimer’s Society that investigates how people are living with dementia. This year’s report has a particular focus on loneliness among people with dementia.

When I started the research for Dementia 2013, I hadn’t realised the extent to which people with dementia feel socially isolated. I interviewed several people with dementia who live alone to hear how they manage to live independently with dementia. It was clear from all of them that they feel lonely and would really appreciate more contact from the people around them.  For example, a gentleman I spoke to lives in sheltered accommodation.  He hated sitting in all day staring at the walls, so he goes for a walk into town every day.  He says there is no point in looking at the clock – he has no need to know the time because he has nothing to do.  He feels sad about this and often finds that the days just drag on.

What was also striking was the number of people who said they have very little contact with their neighbours. Responses to the survey of over 500 people with dementia found that nearly one-fifth of people spoke to their neighbours less than once a month.  The people I interviewed said the relationships with their neighbours often consisted only of a greeting, and that neighbours weren’t willing to be more involved.  This can be a great worry to someone with dementia if there is no-one nearby to help in an emergency.

We commissioned a YouGov poll as part of the research, which asked over 2,000 people about their perceptions of people with dementia living alone. 19% of respondents said they did not know if they would feel comfortable talking to a person with dementia. This backs up what people with dementia say and reinforces the need for people to understand a little bit more about what it is like to live with dementia.

Fortunately, there is a good basis to start from. The YouGov poll revealed that 29% of people do not think there are any barriers to talking to a person with dementia.

The challenge now is to encourage these people, and those who feel the same way, to become Dementia Friends, to help to remove the fear and stigma that surrounds this illness. We want to be sure that, in the future, no person with dementia should fear having to cope with a problem alone. Please join Dementia Friends today.