RAISING AWARENESS OF DEMENTIA

Carole Lakin, IT Analyst Tester, runs the monthly Dementia Support group at CAF. It’s a forum for staff to discuss their experience of supporting family and friends who are living with dementia.

WHY DID YOU SET UP THE DEMENTIA SUPPORT GROUP?

My father was diagnosed with dementia about five years ago. I wanted to be able to support my Mum, but I found it very difficult to access information.

On #givingtuesday in 2016, a volunteer came to talk to staff about dementia awareness. They spoke about the misconceptions associated with dementia, and how society needs to be more tolerant, and that really struck a chord with me.

I noticed how many colleagues were at the event and wondered whether there was an opportunity to get together with others and discuss it further. I spoke to our HR department and Employee Council about setting up a support group for staff and, with their agreement, the Dementia Support group was born.

Carole-lakin-crop

WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF THE GROUP?

Having the support of the group is really important. When Dad moved into a home, it was a very difficult time for Mum and I; knowing that I wasn’t on my own really helped.

Also because I work for a charity, I understand how important it is to help others. Now I’d found a cause I could identify with, running the group was something I could really get my teeth into.

It’s also given me some great ideas, such as developing a tool that people can use to navigate the vast amount of information out there. And having the group means that I have some willing volunteers to test it out on!

I’ve done quite a few dementia awareness sessions, so it’s improved my presentation skills and my confidence speaking to a large group. I started with a couple of presentations to colleagues, and now I’m hoping to present to my church group.

WHAT DO THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THE GROUP GET OUT OF IT?

It’s somewhere confidential to voice their thoughts or let off steam. Because it’s a small group it feels like a safe place to share experiences and talk frankly about worries and concerns.

As our knowledge and experience grows, we can also help people who are new to the group access support quickly, as we know what’s available.

WHY DO YOU THINK DEMENTIA AWARENESS IS SO IMPORTANT?

We live in a very impatient society, and because people don’t understand dementia they find it very difficult to identify with the challenges that those living with the condition face.

Dementia can affect people of all ages – it’s not just the elderly – so it’s important that we take the time to understand what we can do to be more tolerant. That makes for a happier existence for everyone.

No-one knows who will go on to develop dementia, so an awareness is useful for everyone.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE WHO IS CONSIDERING SETTING UP A SUPPORT GROUP OR VOLUNTEERING FOR A DEMENTIA CHARITY?

Go for it! It may take a while to make sense of the information, and there’s no doubt there’s some trial and error involved, but there’s plenty of help out there. Speak to your HR department or your local dementia support group for advice on getting started.

Our role is hugely important. The more dementia-aware people are, the less of a stigma there will be around the condition, and the more people will feel encouraged to seek a diagnosis.

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