Joanne reaches out to support Dementia Friends

GMB Reachout Project Worker, Joanne Phillips became a Dementia Friend in late 2012 and has since been supported members and delivering workplace training sessions.

Joanne GMB Reachout

The Dementia Friends scheme aims to increase understanding of dementia and inspire people to take action to support people who are affected by dementia in their community or workplace. The programme is led by the Alzheimer’s Society as a strand of its work to create “Dementia Friendly Communities” which are more understanding and inclusive of people affected by dementia.

Joanne attended the training session, run by Telos Training at a Caritas event, from both a professional and personal point of view. She found that by engaging in the short session, her basic knowledge and understanding around dementia improved in such a way that she was able to help her nana live comfortably and well with dementia.

Joanne explained:

In 2011, my Nan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I didn’t know how best to deal with some of her resulting behaviours. It started off a year or so earlier with her being unable to think and process as she once had, and we noticed she would easily forget things like what she had walked into the kitchen for.”

Over time, her short-term memory loss became more significant but I was really confused about why she couldn’t tell me what she had had for her breakfast, yet could easily recall her first year of primary school.”

Over the next few years, her nana gradually worsened to the point where she could not remember Joanne’s name or recognise her. Her inhibitions were lowered, she would put her clothes on in the wrong order and she became a risk to herself in her own home when trying to complete tasks like making a cup of tea or food.

Joanne said:

She began to wander outdoors, alone and my family had to put a lot of measures in place to ensure her safety.”

It was around this time that Joanne came across Dementia Friends.

When I heard about the Dementia Friends scheme, I immediately signed up as I wanted to understand why my nana has lost all her sequencing, was not able to judge distances and had forgot that a dog was actually called a dog. I wanted to understand how the disease was affecting her brain.”

I attended the 1-hour session in Salford and found it really informative. The bookcase analogy that was used, really helped me to understand how my nana’s memory was being affected by dementia.”

For example, her memory of my Grandad passing away had fallen off her bookcase which explained why she believed he was still alive. I came away from the session feeling much more confident about interacting with my nana as I now had the understanding as to why she was displaying certain behaviours.”

Following on from becoming a dementia friend, Joanne wanted to commit to an action and therefore made the decision to become a Dementia Champion. A Dementia Friends Champion is a volunteer who encourages others to become a Dementia Friend in order to make a positive difference to people living with dementia in their workplace or community.

Using the links that GMB Reachout have within workplaces and local communities, Joanne now delivers Dementia Friends information sessions across the region, in the hope of creating more dementia friends and making more communities and workplaces dementia friendly.

GMB Reachout covers the North West, and if you would like a free, informal, friendly Dementia Friends session running at your place of work, church group or local community, please contact Joanne on 0161 877 9439 or email [email protected]