Dementia Companions Archives - East Cheshire Hospice

Talking About Dementia

Clues that someone may have early stage dementia are shown in different ways, according to Sharon Hurley, Dementia Services Co-ordinator at East Cheshire Hospice.

She said: “Early signs of dementia are often shown in everyday living, like forgetting simple tasks.

“Someone may enjoying singing and forgets the words. That’s why at our Singing Together groups we give out a song sheet to help them sing the songs.

“Another way of forgetfulness could be putting clothes on the wrong way round,  or following their loved ones around the home constantly for re-assurance.

“Dementia probably wasn’t spoken about as much when I started my career, whereas now it’s in the news much more. Cancer was probably more of a topic than dementia back then.

“It’s also been highlighted more on adverts on TV during Covid and with more personal documentaries about the struggles people are living with quietly and which haven’t always come to the surface before.

“I think GPs are more aware about dementia now as well and patients are getting referred on sooner than perhaps they might have done at one time.

“Fortunately, there are more services available to support people living with dementia. These services are expanding and still developing.

“Here at the Hospice we can provide the support that is required to enable a better quality of life for patients and their families.”

Fred Slater & the Dementia Companions

Cricket coach Fred Slater is completely bowled over by the way he has been welcomed into the fold at East Cheshire Hospice.

He became a volunteer in the Sunflower Centre a year ago and enjoys the company of people with dementia and their carers.

His next role as one of the charity’s Community Champions is a similar ‘buddy’ role in someone’s home, giving their carer vital respite for a few hours each week.

Fred, from Tytherington, said: “I’ve really enjoyed helping the Hospice. It’s so inspiring and I’ve learned so much from chatting to people within a group.

“It’s about finding out what makes individuals tick. You might get someone who doesn’t want to engage particularly, but you get a jigsaw out and suddenly they spring to life and they see the picture far better than me.

“The staff there are fabulous and I’ve learned so much. They’re so professional with their patience and caring approach and are the real unsung heroes of the service.

“We get a thorough background about who we’re looking after and in some ways I just fill around the edges.”

Fred, aged 66, worked for the English Cricket Board before retiring, but still coaches at King’s School, Macclesfield, and helps juniors at Macclesfield, Bollington and Ashley cricket clubs.

He regrets not taking his late father Fred to the Hospice for the sessions. “I didn’t know about the Sunflower Centre otherwise I’d have taken him there.  He was an inspiration to me and now I’m retired this voluntary work is his legacy.

“Being matched with someone is an important small step for me on my journey and I’m looking forward to it.

“More than a dozen Community Champions visit homes but they don’t provide  nursing care. They enjoy the company of individuals while their carers may go for a walk, shop or perhaps visit a library.

“The Sunflower Centre provides wonderful support and it’s re-assuring to know that expert staff are there as a safety net.”

Fred and fellow volunteers were finalists in the Volunteer Team of the Year at the 2019 North West Charity Awards.

Community Champion Open Day

Could you give up a couple of hours a week to help someone with dementia?

East Cheshire Hospice is inviting the public to attend an event next Monday (Oct 7) to hear what is involved.

The charity already has a dozen Community Champions who are companions for those living with dementia and more volunteers are needed.

The information meeting is at the Hospice on Millbank Drive starting at 10 am with talks from those involved followed by general discussion ending at 11 am.

The Hospice’s Admiral Nurse Debbie Callow said: “It’s a chance to come and learn more and meet some of the team and with no pressure to sign up.

“Our service helps provide companionship to a person living with mild dementia, while allowing their carer to have some time to themselves.

“The volunteer won’t provide personal care – their role is one of friendship and they’re fully supported by the Hospice.

“Our volunteers say it’s a highly rewarding role and they enjoy giving something back and making a difference.”

Debbie is the Hospice’s first specialist dementia nurse, a post created in June recognising the charity’s forward-thinking approach to the illness.

Statistics show that more than 850,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with dementia, a number expected to increase, while a quarter of over 65s in hospital beds have the illness.

Debbie said: “Education is the key, whether it’s carers or professionals, to making life easier for those with dementia so they can live well.

“Dementia doesn’t just affect the person with the diagnosis – spouses, partners and family and friends are all affected as well.

“Part of my job is raising awareness and I love the energy and environment of working here. There’s a really nice feeling which you get walking round the building.”

People can just turn up on Monday at 10 am with no need to book. For more details call Volunteer Co-ordinator Helena Smith on 01625 664984 or email hsmith@echospice.org.uk.

* Admiral Nurses were so named by the family of Joseph Levy, whose family founded Dementia UK. He had vascular dementia and was known affectionately as ‘Admiral Joe’ because of his love of sailing.