“Can you write a blog for us Adam?” they said. “About how Dementia Awareness week went and how I ran my Dementia Friends Sessions?”, “Yeah, no problem!” was my immediate response on the telephone. Then I turned to my wife, George, “So, what’s a ‘blog’?”
I have been a nurse for 8 years now, mainly looking after older people in hospital settings. Somewhere between Christmas and New Year I decide that I was going to say “yes” to as many opportunities that came my way and see where life took me. Not so much a New Years resolution, more a personal experiment in positive thinking.
One such opportunity arose during a meeting in Nottingham with the Dementia Action Alliance. It was mid April and Dementia Awareness Week was rapidly approaching. I realised the potential that the Dementia Friends programme has for raising awareness and making dementia friendly communities a reality. My grand idea was to deliver short sessions during work breaks, with a light, interesting but enjoyable approach to as many people as I could.
First I had to become a Dementia Friends Champion, something I achieved one showery Friday in Milton Keynes Library. It was a great day that filled me with ideas about what to do next. I decided that the best way to sign up as many people as possible to the Dementia Friends programme would be to book a room within my hospitals education centre and advertise the sessions as soon as possible. I booked two rooms on each day for the whole week (ten sessions in total) and advertised the sessions via the Dementia Friends website and on my works bulletin board. Not really expecting much response, I got on with ‘business as usual’ and half forgot about it.
The week before Dementia Awareness week, I practiced my Dementia Friends session on George and my sister, Ann. We all stood around a laptop in our kitchen, stirred dinner, drank a beer, drew some pictures of a penny and talked about dementia. After 30 minutes, dinner was ready, and I had signed up my first two Dementia Friends!
I’ve never really been a fan of Monday, even less so lately. Our two boys, Thomas (5) and Nathan (2), insist on waking at 5:30 for their daily monster hunt around our bedroom before charging downstairs to continue their 120 decibel demolition derby. At least I have no need for an alarm clock anymore! After the breakfast club and nursery drop off, it was a cup of tea on the run before meetings and a look at my overfull voicemail and email inboxes. By far, the highlight of my working day was the Dementia Friends sessions! Informal and chatty, both sessions over-ran the allotted 35 minutes, but it was great to see people discussing dementia and what it means to them. Mainly attended by staff from the hospital, it was also nice to see a group of volunteers. I really enjoyed dishing out the badges, though working during my breaks left no room for lunch! This was rectified with a sausage and mash mountain for tea.
The breakfast club and nursery run again, then a full days work. I’d decided to include a short video in the sessions. I found myself needing something to break up the session a little, especially if the group was quiet. I used a video I found on the Alzheimer’s Society YouTube account (the one with Fiona Philips) and it worked well (it also gave me a couple of minutes to eat some lunch). The sessions were better attended than I anticipated, I even had to find a couple of extra chairs! A small group of local solicitors came to the session in the afternoon.
By far the busiest day of the week. The sessions were great and I felt much more confident in my delivery. A few more solicitors attended, though I’m not sure what they made of it all (they were a bit quiet). I introduced the ‘who is right’ game into the sessions to get people moving, most people are keen, though a few didn’t like the idea of leaving their seats and walking about.
After two well attended sessions I signed up my boys to be dementia friends. Their pledge is to visit their Great Grandmother more often as her dementia disappears when sings and plays with them at her care home. Thursday was finished off with an evening sat in front of the computer, putting the finishing touches to an assignment for my degree module. I was glad to see my bed that night!
The morning session was well attended. A group of physiotherapists came, though they were a little shy. The afternoon session had only a few people turn up. It was by far the longest session, running over by nearly 45 minutes. The discussions were interesting, emotional and funny. I was proud to be signing up such committed, selfless people to be Dementia Friends. If these people are the foundation of our dementia friendly communities, we are on our way to making real change for people living with dementia!
In a nutshell, that was my dementia awareness week. I’m planning to deliver more sessions in the near future, though I’ll space them out a little more. I have the local Women’s Institute booked in for October, and I am doing a session at our annual family barbeque in August (let’s hope the sun shines!). I am also finalising a British Sign Language interpreted Dementia Friends session to deliver to the deaf community in the midlands in the next few weeks.