Saturday 28 May 2016

Task 58: Become an Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Befriender

When I started out on my sixtyat60 challenge almost a year ago, the focus of my fundraising was on Alzheimer's and dementia. As I described at the time, Andrew and I have witnessed Andrew's mother Grace and a number of other family members living with the effects of dementia. Added to which I've seen neighbours and close friends supporting spouses and parents with dementia, often through many years of slow decline. It's a tough, distressing and challenging situation for the whole family. 

I've had it in mind for several years to do some volunteering following my retirement, and was keen to work for a charity that helps people with dementia. I'd heard about the Dementia Befriending service run by Alzheimer's Society through a newspaper article and was immediately drawn to it.  The service provides personalised companionship for people with dementia, either in their own homes or during outings and activities. It helps people with dementia to feel less socially isolated and lonely, and gives their carers some much needed respite. It's such a fantastic idea! But it is a commitment, so I decided to hold fire until towards the end of my sixtyat60 year, with a view to seeing clients once the challenge was completed.

I began the application process to become a befriender in mid-March, and was offered an interview with the local support officer, Wendy Hannay, in early April. Wendy was lovely - very warm and enthusiastic and full of common sense. She explained that there are very few befrienders in the Sussex area. Apparently a lot of young people offer their services but then leave home to go to University - and older people are more increasingly working until later in life or are a little reticent about 'looking at themselves in a mirror'. It reminded me of what a gift it's been to be able to retire at 60, and it's great to think that I might be able to use my, well, relative youth to be of service to Alzheimer's Society.

To my delight Wendy gave me an instant thumbs up to become an Alzheimer's befriender. With all the forms duly completed, I then had to wait for the Disclosure and  Barring Service (DBS) checks to be processed. Amazingly that's only taken 4 weeks (in the old days of CRB checks it used to take at least 6 months).  So now I just have to finish working my way through all the online training Modules - and then I'll be put in contact with my first client. 

Wendy and her colleague match befrienders up with clients according to mutual interests and preferences.  Amongst other things I've highlighted my love of music, reading, dogs, walking, travel/culture, jigsaws (really??) and, ahem, football. But I've told Wendy I'm honestly game for anything - hmmm....on second thoughts I might just draw the line at someone who keeps snakes.  Or there again, perhaps I wouldn't (after all, Arthur the corn snake was really quite sweet....)

Now back to the e-learning - there are still a fair few Modules awaiting my attention....



Three more tasks to complete and just 3 days left!  Those last 3 tasks are:

35. Write a blog, adding an entry for each task
49. Write a 36-line poem describing my Sixtyat60 experiences 
56. Glamp at a Festival  

I've almost completed the 36-line poem, I'm glamping at the Hay Festival tomorrow (Sunday) night, and Task 35 will be ticked when I write my final blog. So my plan is to write two blogs back to back on Monday - one live from the Hay Festival in the morning (expect rambling prose and loads of typos) and the other when I arrive home on Monday evening. Come what may, that final blog will be published by midnight on Monday 30 May - and that's a promise!


I'm doing the sixtyat60challenge to raise funds for Shooting Star Chase children's hospice care in memory of a special little girl called Thea Redford. 


For further information or to make a donation please visit my JustGiving page at

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