People who have been instrumental in helping make Wolverhampton a dementia friendly City have been honoured at a special ceremony.
The City was officially granted Dementia Friendly Community status by the Alzheimer’s Society in December in recognition of the efforts being made to improve services for people living with dementia, and their families and carers.
And last week the Wolverhampton Dementia Action Alliance, a partnership of dozens of local organisations and individuals working to become dementia friendly, hosted a special event to highlight the steps organisations large and small are taking to make people living with dementia and their carers feel better understood, respected and supported.
The highlight was an awards ceremony during which the specific contributions of seven individuals were officially recognised by the Dementia Action Alliance.
They included Julie Willoughby from the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, a dementia nurse for 30 years who has trained 2,000 Dementia Friends, implemented numerous campaigns across the Trust and is constantly looking for opportunities to raise awareness. She is also instrumental in supporting the Dementia Action Alliance and was described as a colleague as “the anchor in our efforts to create a dementia-friendly hospital and City. She is a true professional in every sense of the word”.
Joanne Evans from the City of Wolverhampton Council and Wendy Goodall from the Black Country Partnership NHS Foundation Trust were recognised for their work in establishing Memory Matters, an informal drop-in service offering support and guidance to people with concerns about their memory. Memory Matters is an excellent example of collaborative working between health and social care, with the pair balancing their existing workloads to make the service, which has improved dementia diagnosis rates, a success.
Also honoured was Maureen Higginson from Asda Wolverhampton, one of the Alliance’s most long-standing members. Over the years she has continually expanded her role to support people with dementia, and has had a huge impact on the local community, raising both funds and awareness. She has trained over 120 colleagues to become more dementia friendly and acts as an advocate for people living with dementia to ensure they are included in services, meetings and discussions. She has organised numerous fundraising and information events in store, and even introduced a ‘slow lane’ checkout for people living with dementia and their carers.
Linda Evans, from Wolverhampton Homes, received an award in recognition of her commitment to the Dementia Action Alliance. She regularly hosts meetings of the group, and is rolling out e-learning sessions about dementia to 700 staff across her organisation. She has also hosted dementia cafes and drop-in sessions for people living with dementia and their carers.
Finally, Sue Parker and Tom Harnett from the Diocese of Lichfield received an award for their work to raise awareness of dementia in the community. The Diocese has enabled more than 1,900 people – including 1,282 pupils from the Girls High School and Warstones, St Michael’s CE, Bhylls Acre and St Jude’s primary schools – to become Dementia Friends by holding awareness sessions in local churches, pharmacies, schools and other settings.
Councillor Sandra Samuels OBE, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Services, said: “Some excellent work has taken place to help Wolverhampton become a Dementia Friendly Community, and I was delighted to be able to personally thank Julie, Joanne, Wendy, Maureen, Linda, Sue and Tom for the fantastic contributions they and their organisations have made to our success.
“Last week’s celebration was also a great opportunity to share good practice among members of the Dementia Action Alliance, and to also hear from carer Shareen Mettam and her mother Pearl, who has sadly been afflicted by this cruel disease, who spoke movingly about why it is important for all of us to continue working hard to improve the lives of people living with dementia.
“The NHS estimates that there are 3,027 people over-65 living with dementia in Wolverhampton and we will keep looking for ways to improve the help and support available for people affected by this cruel disease.”
The Alzheimer’s Society defines a Dementia Friendly Community as one where people living with dementia feel included and involved, have choice and control over their daily lives and are supported to contribute to the local community. It is also a place where other people are aware of dementia and understand the needs of people living with the condition.
Lee Allen, Services Manager for Alzheimer’s Society in the Black Country, said: “I am delighted that Wolverhampton has become a Dementia Friendly Community at a time when more people are affected by dementia than ever before.”
The Dementia Action Alliance, which comprises a wide range of organisations including retailers, businesses, health and the emergency services, charities, religious groups and education providers, meets on a regular basis to discuss ways in which they can improve services to better meet the needs of people living with dementia. Its membership also includes carers and people with the condition who can speak first-hand about their experiences.
To find out more about the Alliance, please contact Susan Eagle from the City of Wolverhampton Council, on 01902 555344 or via email@example.com, or Jessica Knight, Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friendly Communities Officer for the West Midlands, on 01543 255955 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is also available at www.dementiaaction.org.uk.