Today marks World Alzheimer’s Day, which is part of World Alzheimer’s Month. This year’s focus is stigma, dementia can often be very frightening and debilitating so, we feel it’s important to play a leading role in breaking the stigma.
As well as selecting Alzheimer’s Society as one of our Charities of the Year, we also commit to several different dementia awareness training for our colleagues across the healthcare sector in our catering service line. Gina Rowbery, Project Manager, gives an insight into ‘The Way We Care’ and Dementia Friends training.
What has your journey been like at Atalian Servest?
My name is Gina Rowbery, my journey started just over 3 years ago within the Healthcare sector of the Catering Division. I started at the perfect time; the Healthcare sector was really starting to develop so over this time I have watched the sector grow at a monumental pace.
What is it about care that people don’t know but should?
That’s a hard question, I guess it’s how many different aspects there are. There’s retirement living, day care, assisted living and care homes, and we have dementia units in some of our care homes. I can say with confidence that no two days are ever the same in Healthcare.
How did ‘The Way We Care’ workshops start?
When I first started in the Healthcare sector, I immediately became a Dementia Friends champion which is a voluntary role I do with the Alzheimer’s Society. We then started looking at ways to tie it in with other existing training courses, which is when the ‘The Way We Care’ workshops were first developed.
I think it’s really important our team members become Dementia Friends, as it provides them with a greater understanding of what people with dementia face every day. For example, the dining experience can be particularly challenging for those diagnosed but if all colleagues understand these challenges, then small changes can be made to accommodate their additional requirements, and small changes can have a big impact.
What do the workshops involve?
It starts off as an information session where we provide guidance on what dementia is and how it can affect both those with dementia, as well as their family and friends.
When used alongside other training, it is able to give people a much deeper insight into what it’s like to live with common ailments commonly associated with ageing.
People are given the opportunity to use equipment that helps them understand some of the effects commonly associated with ageing. We have glasses that simulate eye conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma and partial sight loss and gloves that simulate the effects of arthritis. Within the sessions we also use joint weights and restraints that simulate arthritis and the effects of stroke and ear plugs to simulate hearing loss.
What impact do you think the training has?
The impact is above and beyond anything I ever expected, it has changed people’s attitudes towards people who are living with dementia by giving them more empathy and understanding of what it is. I have seen this first-hand as a colleague who went on the training rang me to say how it had completely changed their perception and as a result, they felt they had become more understanding.
Mike Wallis, Executive Development Chef, was also blown away by this training and has since become an active advocate. I am proud to be part of a team where so many people are so passionate about raising awareness.
How many training sessions have you done?
As well as the Dementia Friends training, The Way We Care workshops are delivered throughout the year. As of September, I have personally run 12 across the business creating 120 Dementia Friends. As a business I am proud to say we have over 300 Dementia Friends and are keen to grow this number.
How important is it to raise awareness?
Very, and the business take this commitment very seriously. All colleagues are encouraged to participate in the training. Every colleague who attends is issued with a Dementia Friends badge which is very visible. Many of the teams on site also take part in different fundraising activities for Alzheimer’s Society which in turn creates awareness.
Matt Nicholls, Healthcare Sales Manager, is also very passionate about the training. He has gone one step further and created memory mats for those with dementia, which is a personalised mat with pictures of the individual throughout their lifetime. These have improved the quality of life of individuals with dementia, making it easier for them to remember where to sit and it also helps spark memories.