Why I volunteer for Dementia Friends

Zahra - Dementia Friend VolunteerI had been volunteering for Alzheimer’s Society – working on Dementia Action Alliance’s website – for a while, when a new volunteering position with Dementia Friends came up. This was an initiative I had heard about and after talking with the Marketing Manager I realised what important work Dementia Friends does and I wanted to be part of it!

My involvement began when I started with the team as the Marketing and Communications volunteer. I attended Dementia Friends Champions training and was highly motivated to run Information Sessions. It was a while before I ran my first Session, and that was just for family to practice my presentation skills! The Session went well and we all ended up talking about Dementia Friends and dementia for about two hours and I was given great (maybe somewhat biased) feedback by my family on my presentation skills.

I have gone on to run more Sessions (see picture to the left) and I find I thoroughly enjoy talking to people about a topic that I think is very important, and it will affect all of us at some point. 40% of people living with dementia have reported feeling lonely, so by making our communities more dementia friendly, hopefully we can lower these numbers and help people to live longer in their own homes.

My work in the office has been around communicating with the many supporters of Dementia Friends. Whether that’s through our newsletters (if you’re not subscribed, sign up on our website now for great updates about Dementia Friends!), Facebook, Twitter or this wonderful blog.

Lots of exciting things have been happening in the world of Dementia Friends lately, one of the most recent is the launch of brand new t-shirts, mugs and tote bags. I’ve had the privilege of being involved with the launch of these products and every time I leave the house, I find myself scanning the crowd to spot one of our t-shirts or bags!

So, why DO I volunteer with Dementia Friends…

Dementia Friends is about raising awareness about dementia. The part that I think is great is that you don’t have to be a healthcare professional, or even have a personal experience of dementia to understand the message and the knowledge imparted to you in one of the Dementia Friends Information Sessions. It’s about reaching as many people as possible, so they know a little bit more about the condition and small things that anyone can do to help people affected by dementia. Like I said earlier, at some point in all our lives we will most likely be directly or indirectly affected by dementia, and knowing about it can remove some of the stigma and fear that often accompanies the word ‘dementia’.

So visit our website, get involved and spread the word about this important cause.

Marketing and Communications volunteer – Dementia Friends, Dementia Friends Champion

Meet Daisy – Regional Support Officer for the North East

Daisy - Regional Support Officer for Dementia Friends

Daisy Robson is the Regional Support Officer (RSO) for the North East of England. Daisy is responsible for training and supporting all the volunteer Dementia Friends Champions in the region. We caught up with her to find out about her role and why she got involved with Dementia Friends,

What’s a typical day at work like for you?

There’s no such thing as a typical day for a Regional Support Officer! Some days I get up early (usually with a big yawn…), go to the train station (equipped with a strong coffee and a suitcase full of Dementia Friends goodies) and head off to somewhere in the North East of England delivering Dementia Friends Champions training to our wonderful volunteers.
     Other days I’m office-based, which involves answering queries and promoting opportunities to Champs, such as the new young people resources we created which will help Champions to reach a younger generation with the Dementia Friends message. I also work with colleagues at the Alzheimer’s Society to develop the programme locally and – can you tell I’m a caffeine fan yet? – drinking lots of tea!

How did you come to be involved with Dementia Friends?

I volunteered as a Dementia Friends Champion in Leeds before I was an RSO. I helped to set up our local dementia-friendly community initiative and as part of that I got involved with Dementia Friends. I love getting our local shops and residents participating in Dementia Friends because you reach such a diverse and interesting group of people. The one thing we all have in common is a desire to help those living with dementia. I think it’s pretty special that Dementia Friends brings everyone together.

Can you tell us a little more about Dementia Friendly Communities?

Dementia Friendly Communities is a programme focussed on making communities supportive, inclusive and safe places for those living with dementia. It’s all about improving the quality of life of those living with dementia and Dementia Friends, of course, plays a really important part in that. You can find out loads more information on the programme and how to get involved by going to the Dementia Friendly Communities website.

Are there any Champions training sessions that you have delivered which stand out as being particularly memorable?

I ran a Champions training in York which was attended by an actress. The way she delivered the Bookcase analogy was amazing – I couldn’t believe the way she painted, by just using her voice and gestures, the image of the bookcase and communicated the impact dementia has on memory. It really stood out to me as I realised how powerful the Bookcase analogy is and how much I learn from my Champions!

How important is Dementia Friends for those living with Dementia?

Very!!! We have already made so much progress and there is huge momentum behind the movement. The best thing about Dementia Friends is that all it takes is for every person to do something, even something little, because actually those small changes in attitude or understanding have such a big impact on the lives of those affected by dementia.

To find out more information on becoming a Dementia Friend Champion and to get involved, head to the Dementia Friends website.

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. 

Gina overcomes her fear of public speaking by running Dementia Friends Information Sessions

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… :-)


‘Do you want to create 1,000 Dementia Friends in a single morning?’

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.

Camilla Alfred

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

Meet Chella – New Regional Volunteer Support Officer for Wales

Hello, my name is Chella and I am the new Regional Volunteer Support Officer (RVSO) for Dementia Friends Wales. I am based in Cardiff in South Wales, but cover the whole of Wales.

I started in the role on 3rd March 2014 and attended Champions training last week in Southampton, run by RVSO Sara Miles. I thoroughly enjoyed the day and found the Information Session inspiring. I have actually already held my first Information Session as a champion as I couldn’t wait to get started turning my new understanding into action! This role as a volunteer Champion is definitely something I will continue with, as watching people being captivated, particularly during the bookcase analogy, and understanding the initiative felt fantastic.

I was nervous attending the Champions training and just as nervous as everyone else when it came to presenting my part of the information session, but without this chance to practice and seeing everyone else doing it, I don’t think I would have felt ready to hold my own session for a long time!

My previous job roles have been within the Third Sector, providing legal advice and advocacy to vulnerable people, providing training to outside agencies and managing volunteers within the advice sector. I was also a volunteer at a charity for women and children experiencing domestic violence for five years.

My interest in the role of Regional Volunteer Support Officer sparked after witnessing the difficulties people living with dementia can face when doing something such as attending a hospital appointment.

When I was in a hospital recently an older couple were in the outpatient’s waiting room about to leave, when the lady said to the gentleman, “Now, do you need the toilet before we go?” to which he replied “no”.

The lady continued “remember we will be in the car for over an hour when we leave so if you need to go you had better go now”.

The gentleman agreed and the lady ushered him right to the toilet door. I have to admit, that even with my background and knowledge, I watched on thinking she was a bit bossy.

About 5 minutes had passed and the lady was still stood next to the entrance to the toilets, now looking a little concerned. A few more minutes passed and the lady looked increasingly concerned. Eventually she approached the man sat next to me and asked him if he would check the toilets as her husband who has dementia had gone in some time ago and she was worried he was unable to find his way out. The man agreed, although looked a little startled.

When he came back out he said that her husband was in a cubicle. The lady then entered the toilets to assist her husband at which point the security guard approached her to ask her to leave the men’s toilets. She was able to explain the situation and finally help her husband who had indeed gotten confused and could not find his way out.

For me this highlighted the need for a more dementia friendly community, as had we all attended one of the Dementia Friends information sessions before hand, I’m sure the lady and the gentleman would have had the help and support they needed to make a necessary trip to the hospital less stressful.

I am excited about being part of such a fantastic social action movement and creating many dementia friends in Wales. I am currently looking at locations and venues around Wales to run Champions Training Sessions, so if you know anyone in Wales that is interested in becoming a Champion, please ask them to register as a Champion on our website and to keep a look out on the site for training in their area.

For those existing champions in Wales, please feel free to contact me at richella.borde@alzheimers.org.uk.

I have also started a Twitter feed @DFWalesRSO so please follow me if you are on Twitter.

I am looking forward to working with you all to make England and Wales more Dementia Friendly!

Chella Borde

Regional Volunteer Support Officer – Dementia Friends Wales


My first steps as a Dementia Friends Champion

Hi, my name’s Marilyn, I did my Dementia Friends Champions training last November, and I’d like to share my experience so far, because to begin with it was rather nerve racking and maybe others have felt the same. I would like to re assure people that once you make that first step it all starts to fall into place.

I heard about Dementia Friends through my employers, the Guinness Partnership. (Guinness are promoting Dementia Friends and have a target of 100 staff and 100 customers, becoming Dementia Friends). I was immediately drawn to learn more and become a Champion – perhaps because my mother (who passed away in 2002) had dementia, so I knew what it was like to live with the disease.

Once I’d done the training I was really keen to get started, but realised that I’d never stood up in front of an audience and talked on a particular subject before. As a Scheme Manager in Sheltered Housing I’m used to talking to people and holding coffee mornings and meetings, but the idea of preparing (and remembering) enough content to last 45 minutes to an hour and then presenting it in a way that people would enjoy and learn from, suddenly became very daunting. So much paper! How would I remember to say that bit on that sheet, and that bit over the page, oh yes, and  the bit about such and such?!!

I spent time condensing the most important points into a format that flowed and was easy to follow, (without rifling through lots of sheets). I also typed it out in a large bold font, so it would be easier to see and I wouldn’t lose my place. I spent a lot of time as I wanted to be sure that nothing important was left out, but it was so worth it and my first session went so much better than I’d anticipated. I did it with a group of my own residents and was delighted that 11 of them attended.

Once I started speaking, it really did flow; I’d gone through it so many times, actually practising speaking it out loud, and as I said the words ‘I’m passionate about Dementia Friends’ I realised that I really meant it . When you’re speaking about something that you really mean, it’s so much easier. I actually really enjoyed the session, because my residents were genuinely interested and asked questions and talked about their own experiences, some of which were amusing so there was a lot of laughter. One attendee said her action would be to tell all her friends on Facebook, one resident said she’d talk to the organisers at the clubs she goes to and ask if they’d be interested in booking a DF information session, another said she wouldn’t be afraid now, to speak to people with dementia and wouldn’t avoid them, as she’d been doing. Afterwards I felt exhausted but also exhilarated, and ready to do the same thing again.

I’ve got three more sessions booked over the next three or four weeks, and I know that it will become easier with each one. I’ve made 21 Friends up to now and hope to have at least 50, when I’ve done my next three sessions, so have confidence and know that you’re doing a great job, it may be a bit scary at first, but once you get a great reaction from attendees at your first session, you’ll be inspired to keep going!

Marilyn Keegan

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