Champion’s advice: How to get local businesses engaged with Dementia Friends

Dementia Friends Champion Rosemary Farr has had some brilliant success in approaching local organisations and getting them engaged with Dementia Friends. Here she talks about her experience and gives some invaluable advice for other Champions out there who are looking to connect with local businesses.

“After training as a Dementia Friends Champion, I was keen to start organizing some Information Sessions and thought that local community organizations would be a good place to start. However a number of email enquiries went unanswered and I asked my Regional Support Officer (RSO) for help. I was put in touch with some other Champions in my area and began to get some feedback and more ideas. Through one connection I discovered that there was a county-wide dementia awareness programme including a Dementia Action Alliance (DAA), and also that a branch of the charity Mind were working with the County Council to help make the area more dementia-friendly. These were key discoveries and contacting Mind and the DAA enabled me to be part of a much bigger picture and to deliver Dementia Friends Sessions in places that I had never imagined.”

“I helped to contact lots of the shops and businesses in my local town and then me and other Champions would deliver Dementia Friends Information Sessions to staff in shops and other customer-facing outlets in town, e.g. library, dentists, hairdressers. Often, as they were small businesses, I had to conduct Sessions during the shop working day and sometimes on the shop floor! The dental surgery held their Session in the staff lunch hour, with everyone munching on sandwiches whilst doing the games and activities! The hairdressing salon blocked out appointments for the last half hour of the day to enable staff to attend the Session. It was amazing to see the enthusiasm of the whole town to get on board a dementia-friendly community initiative and the Sessions were always well received. People attending the Sessions always learnt something new. I had to push some personal boundaries to have the courage to start delivering these Sessions but once I had done a few it became very easy and the positive aim of the programme helped to spur me on.”

My top tips:

• take some time to research DAAs in your area. Look on the website of your local county council to see if any initiatives are underway. Ask your regional AS office if they know of any other organisations that are involved

• it’s easily possible to approach small shops and businesses in your high-street and if you start small you might then be able to work up to larger organisations

• you might be able to team up with other Champions in your area

• think of the benefits of become Dementia Friends for customer-facing businesses and sell it to them (our new ‘Local Business Engagement Tool Kit’ can help!)

• One of the challenges in delivering Sessions to shops is finding times that staff can attend. The same was true for speaking to volunteer-based organisations. However even talking to some of the staff is better than none! Or you could offer open Sessions at shop closing times for businesses to come together

• You can do this without the support of a wider initiative – don’t be afraid to make the initial approaches

• I contacted businesses by telephone and email at times but often a personal visit really does the trick. Have some information on a handout as to what the awareness Sessions are about and leave your contact details. Follow up if you don’t hear from people. If shops know that others are doing it too, they will want to join in

Thank you Rosemary for sharing this great advice! If you are a Champion and are looking to engage with local businesses, download our ‘Local Business Engagement Toolkit’ from the Champions dashboard.

Meet Sara Miles, Relationship Development Manager – Dementia Friends

am the Relationship Development Manager at Dementia Friends which means that my role is to support businesses and large employers to roll out Dementia Friends across their organisation. Myself and my colleague Ravina will also proactively contact organisations to talk to them about what a great initiative Dementia Friends is and how they can be involved.

So how do we decide who to contact?
Well we want everyone to be involved so our net is spread pretty wide. However, there are only 2 of us so we have had to reign ourselves in a little! We have looked across different sectors such as travel, retail, banking and health to help us have some focus.

If you imagine a typical journey to go to your local high street and do some shopping. Who do you see? What staff do you come into contact with?
We want the bus driver who takes you to the high street to be a Dementia Friend. The member of staff helping you to find what you want in Argos, the barista in Starbucks and the bank clerk in Lloyds….we want them all to be Dementia Friends.

How do organisations get involved?
There are different ways that organisations can get involved. This includes staff attending public Champions training sessions and running as many Information Sessions internally as possible, an existing local Champion running a large session for them at conferences or meetings, or by hosting the Dementia Friends videos on their own e-learning systems or intranets for staff to engage with. Generally we have found most use a mixture of these ways in order to reach as many staff as possible in a variety of roles.

What sort of things are happening?
Lloyds Banking Group booked staff in their call centre time off the phone during Dementia Awareness Week in May and made 4,000 Friends through face to face sessions delivered.
Societe Generale are about to host a Dementia Friends dinner which they are inviting their suppliers to and will be encouraging all of the to take Dementia Friends back to their organisations Marks & Spencer’s have created nearly 80,000 Friends with all staff taking part in group sessions to watch the videos

How can Champions help?
Whereas we’re focussing on large organisations operating on a national level, engaging local businesses with Dementia Friends is vital when trying to build more dementia-friendly communities –and that’s where Dementia Friends Champions are indispensable! By having local connections and face-to-face interaction with businesses in their communities, Champions can have a real impact. The new Local Business Engagement Toolkit we have put together is designed to support Champions in doing this.

Download the toolkit from your Champions resources.

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:

Question: Dear RSO, 
I am soon delivering an information session to a business audience.
I understand how important it is not to alter the Dementia Friends messaging but was hoping to slightly adapt my session in order to make it more meaningful and effective for my business audience.  Is there any way I can adapt the session for this purpose? 

Anonymous Champion

Answer: Dear Champion,

Thank you for inquiring about this; you are absolutely correct about their being some very clear messages in the standard information session which we must avoid changing. However you can adapt the session slightly to make it more relevant for this particular audience. You can get creative with how you engage the people you will be presenting to. Below, we have given some suggestions for small ways you can slightly adapt parts of an Information Session for businesses.

Actions businesses could take
At the end of an Information Session, when talking about dementia-friendly actions, you could provide some business-specific actions as examples. Below are some actions taken by other businesses that you could share:
• A till operator said they would be more patient when serving someone
• A journalist committed to changing her language – saying ‘living with dementia’ rather than ‘dementia sufferer’
• A pharmacist said he would keep the stock in their shops in the same place
• An optician said she would read the booklet: How to help people with dementia – A customer facing guide
• A banker said he would spread the word by encouraging his colleagues or other local businesses to become Dementia Friends
• A Chamber of Commerce said they would start a local Dementia Action Alliance
Tailored ‘Who’s right?’ statements for different sectors

If you choose to deliver the ‘Who’s right?’ activity as part of your sessions, you could incorporate some of the statements that we have tailored to different sectors:
• you are able to administer your own medication correctly
• you are able to pay for something at the pharmacy using correct change
• you can fill out and complete a prescription form
• you are able to withdraw cash from an ATM using your card
• you are able to independently pay a household bill
• you can complete a written application form
• you are able to make a purchase at a shop using a chip and pin machine
• you are able to make a trip, independently, to and from your local town centre

I hope this has been helpful and you will be able to use some of these ideas in your upcoming Session.

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.