And now for a blog post with a different focus, Cathy my friend, challenge supporter and virtual run team member, regularly volunteers for the Alzheimer’s Society, doing something that I think is very inspiring. After several attempts (thanks to being in quarantine after my two rounds of treatments!) I managed to attend one of Cathy’s awareness sessions and it not only really changed my understanding of Dementia, it really resonated with me, not because I am close to the condition but because it was the first time I was in a room listening to the stories of how people can be diagnosed with a long term condition and how it can make them feel. There were such similarities to some of my experiences. The information that Cathy shared about Dementia was so helpful I encourage you all to attend a Dementia Friends session near you or at least read these 5 facts about Dementia.
I thought it was really interesting to hear Cathy so passionately and engagingly raising the awareness of the condition and how it can affect not only those who have been diagnosed with it, but their family and friends. I have asked her to write a guest post for this blog about her experience of volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Society and spreading the awareness. Thank you Cathy for this post – it’s a really great read!
Allow me to introduce myself. I am Cathy. I am a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Society
‘ “How old are you?” “I’m 38” my sister replied. “How old are you?” I ask Mam “17” she says. “Ooh! That’s a nice age” I reply “Yes it is” she says.
This is the reason we call her Chris and not Mam. You see if she’s 17 she can’t have 3 grown up children. So we embraced her reality’
This is an excerpt from something I wrote many years ago and gives us a glimpse into my world in the 1990s. Little did I know that embracing Mam’s reality was exactly what I would advocate others to do years later.
That was about 18 years ago and goes back to a time when I was wishing I understood what was really going on with my mother. I knew she had dementia but I so wish that I knew then what I know now. This is why I became a Dementia Friends Champion.
A Dementia Friends Champion is a person trained to run sessions to raise awareness of Dementia. Dementia Friends is an Alzheimer’s Society initiative and the biggest ever movement aimed at raising awareness of Dementia. As of Tuesday, 27 June we are celebrating making a staggering 2 million Dementia Friends in England and Wales since it’s launch in 2012.
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to take early retirement and I was looking for something worthwhile and of value for me to do in my local community.
I received my training in March 2015 and I am proud to say that since then I have made over 750 Dementia Friends by running my 1 hour Dementia Friends interactive information sessions. I have held sessions in church halls, fire stations, theatres, community centres, care homes and even Alnwick Castle. I have run them for the general public, Women’s Institute, University of the 3rd Age (U3A), Friendship Groups, and clubs of all descriptions. I have even helped to deliver sessions to Cub Scouts and Beavers who were absolutely delightful and completely engaged. You would be surprised at how much children understand about what may be happening to elderly family members at home.
I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every single session that I have done. Even though one of these sessions was a public session where only one person turned up. I learned so much that day because I was forced to adapt the session to suit that one person. I was so grateful to Kathryn for turning up, she got so much out of it and it made me feel like all of my effort was worthwhile. It turned out that she had just finished training as an Occupational Therapist and was due to start work at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle the following week. She told me that the information that I had given her would be invaluable to her in her new role.
When I was first trained, my first ever session was to my husband Rob and my sister Edith. They were my guinea pigs.
Then, in order to get some more practice, I offered a session at the home of a family friend who’s mother has dementia. They have an amazing network of friends and family who all attended and it was so rewarding to see the understanding in their eyes when I finished my session.
I love a challenge and I have fun thinking of imaginative ways to publicise my events from designing business cards and flyers and using posters. Best of all though is when I get a referral from someone who has just been to one of my sessions. Because that means that it has struck a chord with them and they think that I have done a good job.
I hope that I have inspired you to become a Dementia Friend. Please look out for a Dementia Friends Information Session in your area. You can find out more information here.
If you would like me to deliver a Dementia Friends Information Session (in Co. Durham, Tyne and Wear or south Northumberland) for your club or group, you can contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Thank you Cathy for a real interesting blog, I really do hope that it will encourage others to attend a Dementia Friends session and find out more about how the simple steps they can take to help those with Dementia. I have already put in practice some of the simple things you suggested at your session.