Champion jumps in at the deep end with massive first Session

Rather than easing in to her role as a Dementia Friends Champion and starting with a small first Session, Cecile Mallett decided to just jump right in at the deep end. Her first Session as a Champion was delivered to 80 Year 2 Physiotherapy students at the Cardiff School of Physiotherapy. Cecile tells us how the Session came about:

‘I was once a student at that very school so the surroundings were familiar as were the faces of some of the lecturers who had been students with me 20 years ago! The difference that day was that I was at the front of the lecture theatre giving the talk and not sitting in the back row taking notes. I had been invited to give the Session as part of the students ‘Care of Older People’ module through my links with the school. As a physiotherapist working in a care home I know the importance of a good understanding of dementia in the effective and dignified care of older people. Of course, I was nervous beforehand, but I was confident in my presentation skills and I had practiced the talk many, many times in my bedroom.

‘The practical elements of the Session worked well as it encouraged everyone to focus on the subject and interact with each other, and me. I did have an ‘interesting moment’ when we were doing the “Who is Right” activity. I had accidentally given one of the students a blank slip of paper! Luckily, he was not phased by it and we all laughed together when this mistake came to light!

‘The Session went so quickly and I really did have to be aware of whizzing through it because of my nerves and my enthusiasm! Overall, the Session went well – I can truthfully say I enjoyed it in the end! I would say I benefited from lots of practice beforehand – confidence comes from knowing your stuff and being passionate about the subject. Plus, the students and their tutors felt the Session fitted in really well with their ‘older people’ module. They had done work on the theory side of dementia and this gave them more practical understanding i.e. how it feels to have dementia and how to interact with someone with dementia.

‘Would I do anything differently next time? Well, there has been a next time when I presented to 9 ladies in my book club. It was a different experience with more personal interaction and I think I enjoyed a smaller group more for this reason. Again, I felt prepared and organised and I think you have to feel this to present effectively and get the message across

‘I had become interested in dementia because some of my clients at the care home where I works are living with dementia. After attending a Dementia Friends Session as part of a physio study day, I made the decision to get more involved.

‘Attending the Session totally made me reflect on my interaction with people with dementia and how a little information could go a long way in making their lives better. When asked to decide on an action I put down “train as a Dementia Friends Champion” and I did! Having now delivered some Sessions, I am so glad I chose to volunteer for Dementia Friends as a Champion- it is so worthwhile on a personal and a societal level.’

Phil from ‘The Island’ tells us why he volunteers as a Dementia Friends Champion

I decided to become a Dementia Friends Champion because my mother died while dealing with dementia, and I feel all of my family would have had more comfortable lives if I had known then what I know now.

Champions deliver Sessions to the public, how did your first one go?

My very first session went very well. I gave it to 50 people I had never met before and the groups feedback was very positive. My biggest challenge was my lack of experience, but by following the Session plan given to me at the training day, I got through it successfully. The only unexpected moment was when the organiser ran over and the presentation time was cut by 10 minutes.

Tell us about your experiences on The Island?

Taking part in The Island with Bear Grylls was a fantastic opportunity. Over 90 thousand people applied and I felt being selected was like winning the lottery. It gave me the chance to find out if I am still the man I think I am. It was very, very hard but incredibly satisfying and fulfilling.

Has the experience helped you in your volunteering role?

Yes, the experiences on the Island helped me in my role as a Dementia Friends Champion because it reinforced my belief that I am good at communicating with strangers and that my sincerity and faith in what I am supporting and saying comes across. On the fun side you gain the same buzz from doing something for your fellow men and women while having no idea who they are, and they have no idea who you are.

Do you miss being cast away on The Island?

I don’t miss the Island but I do miss my Island Brothers. We called ourselves the Oceans 11 as, (spoiler alert!) 11 of us survived out of the original 14. I am glad to be back in the real world but I do have a new appreciation of how much we take for granted the things in our lives.

What do you want to achieve as a Champion?

As a Dementia Friends Champion my goal is an easy one for me – spread the word as often as I can to make our world a more dementia friendly one. My motivation comes from not putting too much pressure on myself.  I use this little saying to keep me on target by the yard it is hard, but by the inch it’s a cinch’. This works well for me because it confirms that everything I do is a worthy effort.

Do you have any advice for people thinking of volunteering as a Dementia Friends Champion?

My best advice to any potential fellow Dementia Friends Champions would be, be yourselves and just do what you can, with a smile and a willing heart.  If we all pull together (there’s now over 10,500 trained Dementia Friends Champions) and deliver Sessions in our communities we really can have a positive impact on people living with dementia.

Creating Dementia Friends for TV cast and crew

Dementia Friends Champion Dara Brown went along to the filming of Alzheimer’s Society’s new TV advert and delivered a Dementia Friends Information Session for the cast and crew. Here she tells us about her experience:

When I got a call out of the blue last week, asking if I would like the opportunity to see the Alzheimer’s Society’s new advertising campaign come together, I jumped at the chance. With behind-the-scenes access on the final day of filming, I was able to see exactly how a television advert is put together and it was not at all what I was expecting!

Dara playing Dementia Friends bingo with the film crew

A couple of days before filming started, I visited advertising agency Fallon’s Central London office to give a Dementia Friends Session to a group of twenty-five Fallon and Pulse Films representatives, including the production team for the upcoming shoot. Despite a small hiccup when it was discovered a good chunk of the group didn’t know how to play Bingo (and the resulting outrage from several others!) the session ran smoothly. By the end, everyone had come up with some great ideas about how to turn their understanding into action, including thinking about how their future advertising campaigns could be adapted to support people living with dementia.

With the film crew signed up as Dementia Friends we were ready for the shoot.

Arriving on set, I couldn’t quite believe my eyes; outside what appeared to be an ordinary North London terraced house was a huge amount of equipment, from generators and scaffolding to huge lights shining artificial daylight through the windows. As I made my way into the house, I realised that there was just as much equipment (if not more!) squeezed into every room. Filming was taking place in the dining room, which had been redecorated for the shoot, and I took a seat in the kitchen where a small screen had been set up to show exactly what was being filmed.

Before now I had never really considered how long it would take to film a 30 second advert, but the level of detail the production team were trying to achieve meant that every scene was shot several times to make sure it was perfect. One shot took seven takes and twenty minutes to perfect, and it simply involved the grandfather turning his head to look around the dining table!

I was amazed at the number of people required to make everything happen- crammed into this family home were over fifty cast and crew, all busy getting on with their jobs. Every couple of minutes an order of ‘Quiet Please!’ was shouted out and everybody would fall silent and still while a scene was shot.

In between scenes, I got the chance to talk to the cast about the Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia Friends. We left the house and walked half way down the street in order to speak, so that we didn’t distract those inside who were still filming. We started with the basics, covering Dementia Friends five key messages, before moving onto the bookcase analogy and answering their questions. Some of the actors had personal experience of dementia, and I was touched that they wanted to share these with the group.

Talking to the people on set, I really got a feel for the level of work that went into this advert. Months of research and planning took place before filming, and after everything was wrapped up, it would take weeks of editing to completely finish.

It was a brilliant experience, experiencing what really goes into the making of a campaign like this and I’m looking forward to seeing the final advert, both on television and online.

Dementia Friends Champions: Ask your RSO

Ask your RSO

Each month, one of our RSOs (Regional Support Officers) answer your Dementia Friends Champions questions. Philippa Tree, RSO for London and North, answers this month’s question:

Dear RSO

I want to deliver a unique session for your #DoSomethingNew campaign for Dementia Awareness Week. What do I need to consider when running Sessions in unusual places such as outside? Anonymous Champion

Dear Champion,

Great question and fantastic that you’re getting on board with our #DoSomethingNew campaign!

We want as many people as possible to deliver information sessions during Dementia Awareness Week – that way we can really get the word out there, raise people’s understanding and make a positive impact to those affected by dementia.

Speak to your RSO
If you’re planning to deliver a session in an unusual place (amazing!) but are unsure on what to do please contact your RSO. They are your first point of call and will be able to help you with any queries you have.

Perhaps you want to deliver a session on a bus, on a boat or at a yoga class? Find out what the capacity is. You want to make sure that it is safe for all.

Once you know the capacity for the venue, set this as your maximum for attendance. If you’re advertising your event online and through word of mouth etc, it might be worth setting the maximum online as a little less than the capacity. You then have some room for people who show up on the day from your other methods of publicity.

Think about your audience
Is the venue difficult to get to? Will they have to stand for the duration of the session? Make sure to put this information online when you promote it. That way people know what to expect and can plan accordingly. Equally think about signposting on the day so people can find it!

Outside sessions
If you’re delivering a session outside I would recommend making this a private session for your friends and family.

If you make the session public it can get a bit complicated with regards to public liability insurance and getting permission from your local council. You can find out more information about holding public events outside on your local council’s website.

Check the weather
Ahh our unpredictable weather! If you’re running a session outside it’s worth preparing for our traditional English rain. Have a plan B, whether it’s having a nearby sheltered area or bringing umbrellas!

Most importantly have fun! Our information session can be adapted to any environment.

Think outside of the box and as usual please abide by the standard policies, and health and safety requirements. If you have any questions please get in touch with your RSO.

Philippa Tree
Regional Support Officer, London

Small changes making a big difference

Dementia Friends Champion Trudi Rogers shared this inspiring story with us which demonstrates the value of running Dementia Friends Information Sessions no matter how small.

‘I ran a session for my two children aged 7 and 8 who really engaged with the activities and seemed to enjoy it. We shared the pictures on Twitter and Facebook to help raise awareness.

‘Several weeks later they were visiting a National Trust property with my parents and sat at a table in the grounds. My mother informed me that two ladies approached the table and asked if they could sit by them and my children agreed. One of the ladies explained they were very tired as they had been looking after her husband who is living with Alzheimer’s. My youngest son said: ‘Well we know about that because we are Dementia Friends and our mummy is a Dementia Friends Champion’ and they had quite a chat! The lady expressed her surprise at their knowledge and said that she thought it was wonderful. She hadn’t heard of Dementia Friends before but said to my mother that it was really comforting to think that people understood a bit about living with Dementia, as she had been feeling quite alone.

‘My children told me all about it themselves afterwards, and were very proud that they had ‘made the lady feel better’. It made me very proud of them and also of being part of Dementia Friends. Little differences can make such a big difference!’

Q&A with Anne Devrell, Dementia Friends Champion

Anne Devrell is a Dementia Friends Champion who frequently carries out Information Sessions. Below she talks about her experiences as a Champion, and offers advice to others in a similar position – working hard give people an increased understanding of dementia.

How did you get into being a Dementia Friends Champion? What inspired you to do so?

Having been a carer for my Mum I wanted to find some way of helping others avoid the lack of information, understanding and support that we had experienced. While surfing the internet I stumbled upon the Dementia Friends site where I found the details of local Information Sessions.

After attending the Session I felt that I had the necessary skills and commitment to become a Dementia Friends Champion as one of my ‘personal actions’. Champions are volunteers who encourage others to make a positive difference to people living with dementia in their community. They do this by giving them information about dementia and ideas on how they can turn that understanding in to action.

I received positive feedback at the Champions Training Session and despite feeling nervous, I booked my first Session within a month as I believed that if I didn’t I may lose impetus and confidence. My first session was at my local surgery for practice patients.

Do you have any tactics or tips for facilitating the Sessions and making them as engaging as possible?

In terms of the tactics I apply, I try to be as demonstrative (but not theatrical!) and practical as possible. I typed out the whole Dementia Friends Session for myself using diagrams and colour (I’m a visual learner) and organised it into sections. As I’ve become more experienced I can visualise each section and interact more with the group. I make sure I know I have everything I need at every Session!

As I move around, I try to include all attendees; stepping aside when they share experiences and provide input.

When delivering the ‘bookcase analogy’ I pause for silence at times so that attendees can think things through. I make links with other elements of the Session, and consider the participation of attendees.

When giving my Sessions, I am always at least half an hour early; I do this to set up but also to meet early attendees and strike up a relationship with them. I always encourage input but state clearly that this is not necessary. I smile a lot and use my hands!

You’ve run Dementia Friends Information Sessions to a variety of people, in a variety of environments. Do you tailor your training to your audience in any way, and how do you do that?

I do try to tailor my Sessions. I use the ‘Bingo’ activity for larger groups, and ‘Broken Sentences’ for smaller ones. I do this because I think the broken sentences device creates more discussion between attendees in smaller groups where they could feel under the microscope a little more. By allowing discussion, I’ve found people are more confident to share/discuss something they’ve already aired with a partner.

I don’t want people to feel defensive, I want them to be open to everything and I encourage them to reflect on the position they’re in and what it means for them and the people they might meet who are living with dementia. Sometimes silence and quiet, personal reflection is more powerful than talk.

What has been your most difficult Session so far? Do you have any advice for other Champions on how to deal with these situations?

Memory Cafes have been my most challenging Sessions, but also the most inspiring. I feel humbled and in awe of what they achieve. I think it is here that I’ve worked hardest at completing the whole Session because when those attending are living with dementia their voice has to be heard. I reinforce the 5 key messages more in these Sessions so that they can share them with others.

Could you tell me about your favourite Session so far? What makes a good Session for you?

Among my favourite Sessions are ones where young people have attended, where there are more attendees than expected, where I receive a request from a group who have heard about my Sessions and lastly when I deliver to local Council teams!

How does being a Dementia Friends Champion fit into your daily routine?

It seems like a lot, but in terms of fitting it all in, firstly I’m retired and committed, which means I can give a range of dates and times to find those that suit requests; secondly, the Sessions are only an hour long!

Taking action to help those living with dementia

When Mark Shone, Community Safety Manager at Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, became a Dementia Friend at work he thought it would give him a better understanding of some of the vulnerabilities they need to take into account when undertaking home safety checks and other fire prevention work. What he didn’t expect was to draw on that learning outside of work:

‘I was enjoying a Sunday afternoon film when there was a knock at my front door. Expecting it to be an electoral canvasser, I reluctantly answered but instead found an elderly lady, clearly very cold and very confused. She said she was looking for a particular street, as her brother lived there. Being local I knew instantly that street didn’t even exist in Chester so asked her what her name was and where she lived. She could recall her name, but not her address or how she’d got to my street. It was clear she had some kind of dementia.

I invited her in and got her a glass of water, while I phoned the police’s 101 number. About 20 minutes later two officers came and they were able to look in her purse for some identifying information. Eventually they established she lived with her daughter and son-in-law some 10 miles away. She had somehow left the house, without them noticing, with coat and overnight bag and we think, by means of a passer-by giving her a lift from their village, got into Chester. They were shocked but grateful she was safe and came immediately to pick her up. They explained she had just begun to start wandering and were already seeking advice from the community mental health team.

Without my Dementia Friends awareness I doubt I’d have understood why the lady was so immaculately dressed, why she could recall her name and that of her brother and why she knew precisely where she needed to get to (her childhood home)…but at the same time didn’t know how to get there and was unable to tell me where she now lived. I also recalled how people with dementia may not remember the detail of a recent encounter, but would nevertheless retain the feelings and emotions from it. For that reason, I had the confidence to stay calm, friendly and patient with her.’

Guest blog: A dementia-friendly theatre performance

Nicky Taylor, Community Development Manager at West Yorkshire Playhouse and Dementia Friends Champion, tells us about the dementia-friendly performance they recently ran at the Leeds theatre.

Going to the theatre is an experience many of us look forward to. In my role as Community Development Manager at West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds I have seen the profound impact a visit to the theatre can have on people living with dementia and their families. For the past 5 years I’ve been leading creative activities for people with a diagnosis of dementia and through these participatory projects I have supported many people living with dementia to see theatre shows. Starting with preparatory themed workshops, we also explore the set and costumes and meet the actors, to enhance their theatre experience.

A pre-show singing session where attendees learnt songs from the musical together. Those attending the dementia-friendly performance were encouraged to sing along during the show if they wished.

The positive responses I noticed in terms of concentration, communication, creative expression and laughter convinced me that a dementia-friendly performance was the natural next step. In early 2014 at West Yorkshire Playhouse, we started to explore what a performance of this nature might entail, consulting with people living with dementia and those who support them. How might individual experiences of dementia challenge us to re-think sound and lighting cues, or the actors’ performances? What is it like to arrive at our venue if you have issues with visuospatial perception? How could we make adaptations to support people who find it difficult to be in a busy environment? And how could we convince people to leave the house if they haven’t attempted to in months?

Fast-forward a year and with an enormous commitment from everyone involved, we have now staged our first dementia-friendly performance. Over 400 people came to see it. Our company of actors were profoundly moved by the connection they made with their audience. Some said it was the most special performance of their careers. A team of over 40 staff and volunteers committed to meeting and greeting, assisting people to their seats, manning a quiet space, guiding people in an unfamiliar environment, and most importantly, understanding some of the challenges of living with dementia. In this, my role as a Dementia Friends Champion was key. I led 4 Dementia Friends sessions in advance of this event, for staff and volunteers, for students from a local college and a local primary school. Sessions enhanced people’s understanding of dementia and impacted directly on how they approached their roles on the day. Participants commented on the clarity of the Dementia Friends information and how empowered they felt. One volunteer in her 70s, commented that the event was ‘the best thing I have been involved in in my entire life’, which was incredibly humbling.

Seeing so many people wearing their Dementia Friends badges on the day gave me an enormous sense of pride and reassurance, and this understanding clearly translated to the interactions people had on the day. As a member of the Leeds Dementia Action Alliance, West Yorkshire Playhouse is continually developing as a dementia-friendly organisation, and Dementia Friends is key to this. We have over 80 staff who are Dementia Friends, and are planning more dementia-friendly performances. The demand is there and the feedback has been wonderful. As one audience member said ‘you have made my Christmas!’

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:

Dear RSO

I know that the end of March 2015 marked the end of government funding for Dementia Friends. It’s great news that Alzheimer’s Society has decided to continue the programme, but what does this mean for me as a Champion? Will I have to deliver my Session any differently?

Anonymous Champion

Dear Champion

I’d first like to thank you for helping us reach our first big Dementia Friends milestone of creating one million Dementia Friends – this success would simply not have been possible without you!

As you know, Dementia Friends was first funded by the Cabinet Office and Department of Health for England until the end of March 2015.  But don’t worry because Dementia Friends won’t stop there!  We have already started the next phase of our programme and I wanted to tell you a little more about this.

Our new goal

Now that we’ve hit our first milestone, Alzheimer’s Society has committed to reaching a further 3 million Dementia Friends over the next 5 years – creating a new target of 4 million Dementia Friends by 2020! We would love for you to continue to help us with this by running Information Sessions so that one day, everyone will be a Dementia Friend.

Our funding

As our government funding finished at the end of March 2015, Dementia Friends is now funded by voluntary donations made to the Alzheimer’s Society.

What this means for you

The changes described above should not mean any major changes to your volunteer role. Please continue running Information Sessions just as you have been and making Dementia Friends, just like before.

However, there are a few things that we would like you to be aware of:

Information Session content: During the ‘What is Dementia Friends?’ part of the Information Session, you will no longer need to explain that the programme is funded by the Cabinet Office and Department of Health for England.

Resources: We will be updating all of our resources in due course. Please continue to use the infocards, action mailers, Dementia Friends badges and the resources on the website, just as before. Don’t worry that some of your resources may still refer to government funding.

Website: We will be updating the website over the coming month, so the front page will look a little different from mid-April. 

Donations: Please continue not accepting any donations in return for running a Dementia Friends Information Session. However, if people would like to donate money to Dementia Friends, please direct them to the Alzheimer’s Society.

It is fantastic to have you on board as we embark on the next exciting phase of the Dementia Friends initiative.  Please do let do not hesitate to your RSO if you have any questions or concerns about the changes above or anything else.