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For World Alzheimer’s awareness Month 2022 Friends of the Elderly’s Dementia Champions talk ‘Knowing Dementia’

Charity’s Dementia Champions Support People Living With Dementia

Nearly 55 million people are now living with dementia worldwide, with research showing that this number is expected to increase to 78 million in 2030 and 139 million by 2050. Currently more than 850,000 people in the UK are living with dementia. In support of this year’s World Alzheimer’s Month, Friends of the Elderly’s Dementia Champions are talking ‘Knowing Dementia’.

In the UK, one in 14 people over the age of 65 have dementia, with the condition affecting one in six people over 80. After the age of 65, the likelihood of developing dementia roughly doubles every five years. Friends of the Elderly recognised this and took action. Through working in partnership with the University of Worcester’s highly regarded Association for Dementia Studies and Professor Dawn Brooker MBE (who has since retired), the charity created its Dementia Education Programme.

Through its Dementia Education Programme, Friends of the Elderly now has trained Dementia Champions who work in its care homes and day care centres and they are on hand to support residents, clients and their families. All the charity’s Dementia Champions are exceptionally passionate about their work and strive to demystify dementia to help those who are either living with, or supporting a loved one who is, living with dementia.

The charity’s Dementia Champions focus on encouraging independence, giving reassurance, supporting and helping, inspiring communication, creativity, interactions and providing high quality bespoke care with dignity that meets each person’s individual needs.

Talking about the Dementia Education Programme, Friends of the Elderly’s Chief Operating Officer, Mark Wilson said: “Our Programme, which has been rooted and adopted throughout the charity at all levels, is an ongoing, inclusive education programme. It not only educates our team members, but also builds on their existing knowledge-base and skills, expands their capabilities and heightens their proficiency.”

At Friends of the Elderly’s Bournemouth residential and dementia care home, The Retired Nurses National Home (RNNH), the charity has a dedicated dementia unit which provides  care and support for each individual living with dementia.

RNNH’s Dementia Champion, Ruth Arnold said : “I have worked in care for over 40 years, 33½ of those with Friends of the Elderly. I have always enjoyed looking after people and making sure they are healthy, safe and that their wellbeing is well catered for. I believe that through supporting each of my residents who are living with dementia, I can help them to enjoy and live their lives in the best way they possibly can through providing an exceptional level of personalised care.”

 Melissa Nutsford, who is the Dementia Champion at The Old Vicarage, the charity’s residential and dementia care home in Wallingford, Oxfordshire added: “I am dedicated to providing care that honours and supports our residents to live full, joyful, happy and independent lives and live really well with dementia. I have tremendous respect, regard and appreciation for our residents and work hard to ensure they receive meaningful, personal connections and that every interaction, regardless of the context, is bespoke and tailored to their needs.

“Through my work, I make sure that each resident feels that they are understood, important, respected and loved – that The Old Vicarage is their home and they are safe and secure. I work closely with the care home’s Activities Coordinator on compiling a wide range of activities that engage, entertain and stimulate our residents. No day is ever the same. Everyone is different and has their own way of thinking and understanding and I’m here to make sure they have activities tailored to what they want to do, when they want to do it.”

At Friends of the Elderly in Malvern, Worcestershire, there are three dedicated homes and a day care service which specialise in residential, nursing and dementia care – Davenham, Bradbury Court, Perrins House and Malvern Day Care. Adrian Tyrer, the Dementia Champion at Malvern said: “I have tremendous respect, regard and appreciation for our residents and work hard to ensure they receive meaningful, personal connections and that every interaction, regardless of the context, is bespoke and tailored to their needs.

 I have been with Friends of the Elderly for over nine years and, as a Dementia Champion, I regularly host Namaste afternoons.

“The Namaste sessions are a sensory experience in a calm and relaxing atmosphere. Namaste is an expression of appreciation and respect towards another person which resonates with seeing dementia care in different light and from the resident’s point of view. This is key to everything I deliver every day. Taking time to listen and talk to the residents is very important. Giving them reassurance, support and encouragement with a friendly smile goes a long way. One of the best things about my job is being able to put a smile on somebody’s face every day.”

 Lana Boneva, Dementia Champion at Redcot residential care home in Haslemere, Surrey, said: “The word ‘dementia’ is a daunting one. To be faced with the loss of your memory, thinking ability, your language and problem-solving skills is an awful thing to go though as your daily life will never be the same.

“I’ve worked for Friends of the Elderly at Redcot for two years and what motivates me is knowing that even the smallest things I can do make a real difference in providing person-centred care. I try to introduce familiar, comforting routines as these can help and benefit those people living with dementia, but every day is different as it depends on what our residents want to do and when they want to do it,” Lana added.

In closing, Mark said: We want everyone using our care homes and day care services to have the best experience we can possibly provide, which is why our Dementia Education Programme has been actioned by the whole charity.                   

“Our Dementia Champions know how imperative it is to focus on what they know about a person living with dementia and what that person is confident in. If they are engaged, motivated and inspired, even for a little while, they are cheerful and content – and that time is quality time.”

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