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Friends of the Elderly’s Dementia Champions Share Their Dementia Care Journeys

Charity’s Dementia Champions Support Dementia Action Week 2024


Recognising and marking this year’s Dementia Action Week, charity Friends of the Elderly’s Dementia Champions are sharing their dementia care journeys and talking about how they support, care and inspire residents who are 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 care with dignity that meets each individual’s needs – and all the Dementia Champions are totally committed to supporting residents living with dementia. They spend time with every resident – or day care client – supporting, caring for and getting to really know them, finding out about their backgrounds, likes, dislikes, interests and hobbies, building trust and friendship. Each Dementia Champion has a deep passion for caring and supporting those who are living with dementia and are consistently and continuously learning and developing thanks to the Charity’s Dementia Training Programme.


“Friends of the Elderly is committed to continuously developing its Dementia Education Programme which has the capacity to continue to evolve and grow, rather than just being run of the mill annual dementia training,” said Mark Wilson, the Charity’s Chief Operating Officer.


To achieve our goal, we partnered with Worcester University’s highly regarded Association for Dementia Studies and worked closely with the now retired, Professor Dawn Brooker. We now have 66 trained Dementia Champions throughout the Charity whose unwavering focus is to support residents and day care clients and to be there to help their families and friends. The Programme is securely and well embedded and is also in place to support new members of the Friends of the Elderly team.


“Through the innovating programme, our entire charity, from our Chief Executive – right through to our frontline care teams – have attended the Dementia Education Programme. This really does demonstrates our staff’s commitment to supporting people living with dementia and, of course, their families.”


At Bernard Sunley, the Charity’s Woking-based residential, nursing and dementia care home, there are five Dementia Champions, including the Registered Care Home Manager, Andy Cumper. “At present, five members of the Bernard Sunley care team are Dementia Champions, with a further two shortly completing the course and another participating in our Dementia Leader Training Programme,” said Andy.


Friends of the Elderly’s Dementia Champion training has given me the understanding to be able to see things more clearly through the eyes of the residents who are living with dementia,” added Monika Ahmed, the Activities Coordinator and a Dementia Champion at Bernard Sunley “To see the look of happiness on someone’s face, bringing a person out of their shell and by being a friend that can understand and help them live a fuller, happier life is so rewarding.


“Being a Dementia Champion – first and foremost – is knowledge, understanding and skills which I share with my colleagues and residents’ families to promote positive changes to people living with dementia in our care home. In addition, being a Dementia Champion to me means that I have the duty to lead my colleagues by good example – being a role model by demonstrating quality and a person–centred approach to dementia care. I am an advocate for the residents, so they are heard and their needs and wishes are addressed and to promote their social, physical, emotional wellbeing.”


At Redcot, Friends of the Elderly’s Haslemere-based residential care home, Anne Essam the care home’s Dementia Champion said: “I’ve worked for Friends of the Elderly over 20 years and have been a Dementia Champion for five years. One of the most rewarding parts of being a Dementia Champion is seeing the residents – who are living with dementia –  smile when they achieve a task or are happy participating in one of our many group activities. It is truly wonderful knowing that I have made a difference – even a small difference – to their day.”


Shirley Bradley, Friends of the Elderly’s Head of Day Care Services added: “I’m very proud of all the Day Care Team. They all work so hard to give the clients a great day, every day, despite living with dementia. Their commitment and ethos shines through as they know that what they do and achieve is about the person, the individual and not dementia.


“They continuously think about new things to do each day, themed and seasonal activities and topics of the day to support the clients in an inclusive, engaging and enjoyable way, so each one lives their life well whilst at our day care centres.


“They are not just here for the day care clients, but for their families too. They are a friendly ear and comforting support. If any of the team notices a difference in one of our clients, they immediately tell their families so they can let doctors or medical professionals know, keeping them currently up-to-date with a person’s wellbeing.”


“Being a Dementia Champion has given me more awareness and comprehension of dementia and helps me – every day – to promote the wellbeing of the residents living with dementia and provide support to their loved ones,” said Emma Cranstone, the Dementia Champion at The Lawn, the Charity’s residential care home in Alton, Hampshire.


“I have been with Friends of the Elderly for over 13 years,” continued Adrian Tyrer, the Dementia Champion at Davenham, the residential care home at Friends of the Elderly Malvern.  “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 resident who is 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.”


In closing, Mark said: “We are proud of the approach we have taken to support residents and day care clients who are living with dementia. Through our Dementia Education Programme, our teams and Dementia Champions, we are able to deliver tailored care that supports each person, focusing on their individual abilities that encourages and helps each person to continue living as independently as possible with fulfilled and happy lives.”

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