Friday, 14 November 2014

I get by with a little help from my friends

Recently I became a Dementia Friend.

Su McAlpin, Dementia Friends Champion at
LCH with 'Gina'  
I have a personal interest in the Dementia Friends campaign but in my role of Communications officer at Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, I went along to one of the trust's training sessions to see what it involves and how we could help promote the campaign internally to colleagues.

On arriving at the session, I explained to the leaders I was there from a ‘comms perspective’ and said I would sit to one side so not to disrupt the session. I was encouraged to take part; I didn’t realise anyone could become a Dementia Friend, you don’t need to be a healthcare professional. The awareness is useful, regardless of whether you’re at work or doing the weekly shop.

The training session is just an hour long but gives you a really good insight in to what things we can do to make our community dementia friendly. There are lots of great analogies that help you to understand what it can be like for a person with dementia. For example, you’re walking in to a health centre and there is a black mat at the entrance. You would cross the mat, enter the building and go on to attend your appointment. To a person with dementia, they may see the mat as a black hole and don’t want to step on to it for fear of falling in to it. This could make them scared to access the building and prevent them from going to their appointment.

After talking to the trust’s Dementia Friends Champion, Su McAlpin, I found out that around 100 of the trust’s front of house staff have been trained as Dementia Friends recently with more to follow. They’re the first people that greet patients so it’s important they recognise the signs and know how to support someone. Su is running a number of training sessions internally and also externally - recently, she spoke to a local Beavers group. We’re also looking at all our buildings to make sure they are dementia friendly too.

The campaign is aiming to create 1 million dementia friends by 2015. You don’t need to go along to a session, you can also sign up to be a dementia friend online at 

Let’s all help to make Leeds a dementia friendly community!

Sarah Elwell, Communications officer



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