Advice on getting started from a Dementia Friends Champion


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.


Dementia Friends Champions: Ask your RSO

Ask your RSOEach month, one of our RSOs (Regional Support Officers) answer your Dementia Friends Champions questions. Hannah Piekarski, RSO for London and the South, answers this month’s question:

I completed my champions training a long time ago now, time has passed and I don’t feel confident anymore at running Sessions. Is there anything Dementia Friends can do to help?

Hannah’s answer:
Dear Champion

Thank you so much for contacting us; that is the key thing to do in your situation as then we can help you to get started again. 

The first thing to do is contact your Regional Support Officer (RSO), if you are not sure who yours is please log in in to your account and go to ‘Session Resources’. There you will find a list of the RSO’s and the areas they cover. Your RSO can then provide some ways to help you get going, including:

1) Attending another whole or part of Champions Training as a refresher. You might feel it would be beneficial to go over some of the training again so you feel confident again in running Sessions. Your RSO will be able to advise on a training date which would be suitable for you to attend and also get an idea of which areas of the training you would like to cover.

2) Observing another Champion or RSO deliver a Session. It can be beneficial to see another Champion deliver a Session to see how they do it. If you’d like to do this then post a message on your regional Champions Facebook group to find a Champ who is running a Session locally.  Alternatively, your RSO can help to find a Champion who is running a Session in your area.

3) Co-delivering with another champion. A great way to ease in to running Sessions is to start off doing it with a partner. You can each deliver different sections of the Session and support each other through the process. If you’re interested in doing this then post a message on your regional Champions Facebook group or see if your RSO can help in finding a Champion to buddy up with.

I hope that you gain the confidence that you need and start running sessions again.

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