This week we were pleased to welcome Melina Pelling at JHub, who came to train 25 employees from the William Pears Group to each become a Dementia Friend. Melina is a young volunteer from the Royal Free Hospital, ambassador for Step Up To Serve, and a Dementia Friends champion. With a goal of training 100 people to become Demenita Friends this year, Pears Foundation were very excited about helping Melina to achieve this mission.
To further explain about her goal, as well as her experiences of volunteering with individuals with dementia at the Royal Free, we invited Melina to write a guest blog. We hope you enjoy reading Melina’s blog and you can find out more about how to become a Dementia Champion or Friend here.
This week is Dementia Awareness Week and in light of that I have been invited to do a Dementia Friends session at the Pears Foundation. Currently in the UK there are 850,000 people with dementia and these numbers and expected to increase to 1 million by 2025. With numbers increasing and no cure it puts us in a difficult situation, which is why Alzheimer’s Society have created programmes such as the Dementia Friends session to increase awareness and ultimately increase quality of life for those with dementia.
In September 2015 I started volunteering at the Royal Free Hospital where I had my first real experiences of dementia. My main role was on the wards, either talking to patients or making teas and coffees. I really enjoyed what I was doing in the hospital and I still volunteer today. While I was volunteering I became a Dementia Friend and several months ago I completed Dementia Champion training with the Alzheimer’s Society, which means that I can train Dementia Friends by giving a one-hour session. As a result of my experiences volunteering with dementia patients at the Royal Free Hospital, I felt this a necessary step into my work with dementia.
In November 2016 I was fortunate enough to be chosen as one of the ambassadors for the #iwill campaign run by Step Up To Serve. They choose 50 ambassadors from around the UK, all with goals and aspirations to achieve whilst being an ambassador. One of mine was to create 100 Dementia Friends. I’m currently on 67 and I’m very grateful to have been invited to the Pears Foundation to increase that number by 25. The sessions are not scientific or professional training, their aim is to increase awareness and knowledge about the symptoms and how to respond and recognise them. They include a series of activities, discussions and group participation to get all the key points across.
The Alzheimer’s society have 5 key messages, which are important for our understanding of dementia, they are:
· Dementia is not a natural part of aging
· Dementia is caused by diseases in the brain
· Dementia is not just about losing your memory
· It is possible to live well with dementia
· There is more to the person than the dementia
In September I will be starting at Bristol University and I hope to continue my volunteering in health and social care as I’ve really enjoyed meeting new people and giving my time to help others.