Dementia Friends Champions: Ask your RSO

Ask your RSOEach month, one of our RSOs (Regional Support Officers) answer your Dementia Friends Champions questions. Becky Haines, RSO for the Midlands, answers this month’s question:

I have contacted my local papers and asked them to promote my Information Sessions but I never get a response. Have you got any tips or hints on how I should approach them ?

Becky’s answer:
Dear Champion,

Thanks for your email and it’s great to hear that you have already contacted your local press. We recently ran a webinar for Champions on how to plan and promote Information Sessions. We were joined by Robbie Lane, Media and Communications Officer here at Alzheimer’s Society and here a few of his tips for you to try:

1. First of all, take a look at our press pack, available on your dashboard under Session Resources > Promoting your Sessions. This pack includes advice on using social media, taking a good press photograph, a pre-event press release template and a post-event press release template along with guidance on how to use them. These templates have been recently updated with our most up-to-date messages, so do have a look through and make sure you use these for future sessions.

2. Remember that if you send a press release too far in advance, a newsroom may lose or forget about it. Ten days before your information session is ideal.

3. Newsrooms get lots of emails so be really clear in your communication that you are running a real, local event. It’s worth following up a press release with a phone call to the newsroom and ask to speak to the person who deals with local events, so you can check it was received by the right person.

4. Send a post-event press release too – this will raise the profile of Dementia Friends locally so it’s still really important.

5. Our press releases include a section on why you signed up to be a Champion. Include 2 or 3 sentences which show your passion and enthusiasm, and why you think it’s important to be involved in Dementia Friends.

6. To get the session promoted on local radio, use the same press release. You can increase your chance by following up with a phone call to the newsroom to check that they received the press release and then politely ask if they are interested in speaking to anyone. They would usually want to do the interview a day or two before the session so it isn’t always ideal for getting people to come along but does help with general awareness of the programme.

7. When talking to local radio, remember they are on your side! Try and have 3 or 4 things in mind to get across in the interview, such as where the session is, why it’s important and how people can get involved. If you’d like a mock radio interview or help on what to cover in an interview, contact your Regional Support Officer.

Interested in becoming a Dementia Friends Champion? Head to our website for more info. 

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!

Dementia Friends Champions Webinars: A Guide

Our team of Regional Support Officers (RSOs) run regular webinars on a range of topics to assist Dementia Friends Champions in their role. To see a list of upcoming webinars click here.

Not sure what a webinar is? RSO Camilla put together this handy guide:

What is a webinar?
Short for Web-based seminar, it is a presentation or seminar that is run on the internet. The website allows an RSO from Dementia Friends to run a virtual seminar with Champions from across the country. Whether you live on Cornwall or Newcastle, Carlisle or Kent as long as you have internet access and telephone line you can join in.

So how does it work?
When you sign up to a webinar you will be sent instructions for a website to visit and a telephone number to ring so that you can join the seminar. The website has special software that allows you to watch a power point presentation, chat with the presenter and other Champions in a chat box and also vote in polls. The telephone number takes you to a conference call line where you can listen to the presenter. You can also un-mute your phone to ask questions. All webinars last about one hour.

Why should I join a webinar?
A webinar is a great way to learn, engage with the Dementia Friends team and meet other Champions. We are covering lots of different subject that will be really helpful for Champions such as how to promote your sessions, how to deal with difficult questions and tips to get going with your first session. Take a look at upcoming webinars.

How do I sign up?
Easy – just email the Dementia Friends team at with the subject line ‘Webinar’ and tell us which webinars from the list you would like to join.

Over 1000 new Dementia Friends at Southbank University

Southbank University students becoming Dementia FriendsDuring 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.

Dementia Friends Champions: Ask your RSO

Ask your RSOEach month, one of our RSOs (Regional Support Officers) answer your Dementia Friends Champions questions. Becky Haines, RSO for the Midlands, answers this month’s question:

Question: I’ve seen some Dementia Friends have received a “Little Book of Friendship” in the post. Should I be giving these to new Dementia Friends in my information sessions?

Becky’s Answer: Thank you for your question. The Little Book of Friendship is only sent out to those who become Dementia Friends through the online route (by watching the video on our website). The book includes some extra information that you cover in the face to face information sessions, but which is not included in the video. So don’t worry you haven’t missed anything and the Dementia Friends will get all of the information they need from your sessions. Thanks for being a Champion and making a difference.

Got a question you need answering? Get in contact with your RSO.

Interested in becoming a Dementia Friends Champion? Head to our website for more info. 

How do I make a dementia friendly community?

I work within the Dementia Friendly Communities team at Alzheimer’s Society where we have the ambition to create over 75 Dementia-Friendly Communities across England by March 2015. Work to achieve this is well under way with over 70 communities already signed up to the process and achieving great success for people living with dementia and their carers and families within their local areas.

A Dementia Friendly Community is one in which people with dementia are empowered to have high aspirations and feel confident, knowing they can contribute and participate in activities that are meaningful to them. Based on the available evidence we were able to identify 10 areas of focus that people with dementia wanted to see in any dementia friendly community.

Dementia Friends Champions are playing a key role in creating dementia friendly communities, using their networks and connections to improve public awareness and understanding so that people with dementia are supported by their community.

Establishing a local structure is the key to the success and sustainability of creating a Dementia Friendly Community and to achieve this we encourage communities to start by establishing a steering group to advise the action plan within a community based around the specific needs of people living with dementia and their carers in their local area.

A local Dementia Action Alliance (DAA) is a greatly effective model as it enables the bringing together of local stakeholders, including people with dementia, other individuals and organisations. You can see if there is a Local Dementia Action Alliance in your area by visiting the local alliance webpage: If you do not have a Local Dementia Action Alliance established in your area you can look to form one starting with the guidance available on the Local Alliance page above – once you have this steering group in place and are driving forward change for people with dementia locally you will be able to apply for recognition for your community by completing our online application form

If you are a community that would like to apply to join the Dementia Friendly Communities recognition process please read carefully this information that explains how the process will work and then fill out the online application form.  The process is designed to enable communities to be publicly recognised for working towards becoming dementia friendly and to show that they are following common criteria, that are based on what we know is important to people affected by dementia and will truly change their experience.

If you have any questions to ask before applying please email:

Robyn Sweeney

Programme Officer – Dementia Friendly Communities


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… :-)