Visitors, staff and volunteers at a South Tyneside library have been finding out more about how they can support people in their community with dementia and their families.
Newcastle Building Society put on a ‘Dementia Friends’ awareness session at Boldon Lane Community Library in South Shields during Dementia Action Week as part of its long-term backing for the work of The Alzheimer’s Society.
Led by Sheila Hodgson, customer support manager at Newcastle Building Society, the event was attended by around a dozen people, and was designed to help them learn more about the condition, as well as how to provide appropriate support and care to individuals and families affected.
The Society has been running ‘Dementia Friends’ awareness sessions for the past year across its branch network and in a range of external locations which are aimed at its colleagues, customers, local people and neighbouring businesses on the high street.
Over 1,500 people have so far become Dementia Friends after receiving specialist training in more than 100 awareness sessions.
Hazel McAllion, chief executive at Action Station South Tyneside, which runs Boldon Lane Community Library, says: “We operate a community centre for all ages and felt it would be beneficial to raise awareness about dementia and get a better understanding of how it affects people.
“We invited staff, volunteers and service users to take part in the Society’s session, which was very informative and helped to dispel some of the myths and misunderstanding about dementia.
“Everyone came away with a much better understanding of dementia and what we can do to support individuals both within and outside of the workplace, while what we learned will help us deliver services in a different way and be more aware of how we can support people living with this condition.”
The Dementia Friends initiative aims to change the way people act, think and talk about dementia at a time when the age profile of the UK population is rising and the disease is becoming ever more common.
‘Dementia Friends’ have been trained at every level of Newcastle Building Society’s operations, including at its head offices and on its main board of directors, while every one of its 28 branches now includes at least one Dementia Friend within its team.
Stuart Fearn, head of customer contact at Newcastle Building Society, says: “Dementia cuts across every part of society, and as well as ensuring our colleagues have the training they need to manage situations that might arise during their customer interactions, we also invite people living in the communities around our branches and neighbouring businesses to join us.
“The sessions are interactive, easy to follow and have great stories which help people gain a better understanding of dementia and the challenges that come with it.
“We had a really positive response to the library event and hope those who attended will be able to put what they learned to practical use in the future.”