My name’s Teresa, I’m a Dementia Friends Champion and I live and work in Worcestershire. I did my Champions training in February 2014 but didn’t start doing sessions for a few months. My first one was a one-to-one session with a friend to try out the materials. I then asked some of my work colleagues if they would be interested and did a trial run to a group of 6 of them one lunch time. They all said they enjoyed it and found it interesting and we had a few laughs while doing it so that boosted my confidence to set up some more sessions.
As I lead Health Walks for a National Trust site in Herefordshire, I recruited some of the walkers and did my next session there, sitting outside in the sunshine, to a group of 4 people. Then a few weeks later at a local car boot sale I got talking to some Community Support Officers. They said they were interested in becoming Dementia Friends but couldn’t find any sessions locally, so I invited them to my next one. They enjoyed it and passed my details on to their Sergeant who asked if I could repeat the session for all of his team! I’ve now done two sessions for West Mercia Police with 6 officers at each session. I tailored the discussions a little bit for them so that it was work-related and we talked about the ways that understanding about dementia could be helpful in their roles. It was a bit daunting at first and I would never have imagined this time last year that I would be asking police officers to stand in a line against the wall, deciding on whether they could make themselves cheese on toast or do the ironing! That was a bit strange!
I don’t feel comfortable (yet!) to deliver to a large group so I aim for around 6 to 8 people in a session. That way I don’t have to “present”, we can just sit around a table and make it informal.
I find it helps me to develop a rapport if I can get people talking a bit about their own understanding and experience of dementia so that I know what I’m saying is relevant to them. So far I’ve delivered to 25 people, with two more sessions set up at work in the coming months. My advice would be to do it in a way that’s comfortable for you, don’t put too much pressure on yourself at first. Just remember, they’ve volunteered to come along and want to hear what you have to say, so take a deep breath, smile and enjoy it! The material is really good but don’t feel you have to follow it to the letter and if you forget something you can always have a quick look through and come back to it at the end of the session. Once you’ve started doing the sessions, people will suggest places and groups where you can do more. I’m considering delivering a session for a local WI group in the new year but that could be up to 20 people so a bit more challenging for me!
I get a lot of satisfaction from being part of Dementia Friends and it’s a good way of getting out of your comfort zone and gaining new skills. I’ve become much more confident about doing presentations at work as a result. And it’s amazing how many people I have met who know someone with dementia so I’m never stuck for conversation! Recently I decided to start studying for a Masters in Psychology and will be focussing on dementia for my dissertation so who knows where that might lead in the future. It’s also a nice way to meet some new people and to do something for your local community which makes you feel good.