Ripon residents join ‘dementia friendly’ campaign

Local people became ‘Dementia Friends’ recently, as part of a campaign to tackle the stigma and lack of understanding around the condition.

Business owner, Sheena Van Parys from Home Instead who support older people living at home in and around the towns of Harrogate, Ripon and Thirsk has been busy raising awareness of dementia in the local community.  To coincide with Dementia Awareness Week 17th – 23rd May, Sheena Van Parys who volunteers as a Dementia Champion has been running information sessions to create as many Dementia Friends as possible

The Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends initiative has been running for a number of years and is the biggest ever initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia. The aim is to educate the public on becoming a dementia friendly society and to transform the way the nation thinks, talks and acts about the condition.  They aimed to have educated one million people in dementia awareness and with the know-how to help people with dementia feel understood and included in their community by May 2015 and this first objective has now been achieved. Many businesses, organisations and Local Authorities have committed to becoming ‘Dementia Friendly’ and are actively looking for routes to achieve this.

There are currently 685,000 people living with the condition in England.

The Dementia Friend sessions are short, fun and interactive, designed to promote awareness of dementia and the fact that it is possible to live well.  Sheena Van Parys held the sessions in venues located in Thirsk, Harrogate and Ripon, finishing off the week with a very successful dementia awareness session for the staff and volunteers who work at Fountains Abbey, the National Trust World Heritage site near Ripon.

Dementia Friends Champions are volunteers who talk to people about being a Dementia Friend in their communities. Speaking about the sessions, Sheena Van Parys said:

 ‘I was so pleased to see people showing their support for people with dementia, by coming along to the Sessions and becoming Dementia Friends. We need to create more communities and businesses that are dementia friendly so that people affected by dementia feel understood and included.’

Sheena Van Parys signed up to be a Dementia Friends Champion earlier this year and attended a one day training course on how to deliver the Sessions. She continued:

‘I signed up to be a Dementia Friends Champion because I am passionate about changing people’s attitudes to dementia. I’m so proud to be part of a growing network of people helping to create dementia friendly communities across England.’

Daisy Robson, Dementia Friends Regional Support Officer at Alzheimer’s Society said:

‘Whether you attend a face-to-face session or watch the online video, Dementia Friends is about learning more about dementia and the small ways you can help. From telling friends about the Dementia Friends programme to visiting someone you know living with dementia, every action counts.’

Anyone interested in supporting the campaign should go to dementiafriends.org.uk.