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May 27, 2017

Louise’s experience: Dementia Friendly Leeds

My experience at Dementia Friendly Leeds will not be forgotten quickly. I have had a really positive experience here and will take the key skills I have learnt with me in the future.

Through the past six weeks I’ve visited multiple Dementia Cafes and Singing Groups and have learned a lot about the people who attend. Being diagnosed with dementia, I assumed that all the attendees would find it difficult to communicate and hard to converse with. I was very wrong. Many people I met in the cafes were at different stages of dementia and so all have varying symptoms, however almost none of which were visible to me. The people I met were conversational, outgoing, and friendly. Some of the attendees found it difficult to sing along at times, but they seemed to enjoy it regardless. You’d assume that people might be shy and worried about singing in front of others and ‘messing up’, but most people seemed to really light up and it was great to see the positivity.

Of course, not every experience was completely positive; there were minor negatives in that one attendee was very outspoken and attended several groups. It was interesting to see that in one group he was considered funny and they laughed with him, and in the other people just kept telling him to be quiet and got quite agitated at his constant outbursts. This of course was no one’s fault but put a bit of a negative twist on one of the events and highlighted the need for understanding of different symptoms of dementia.

Towards the end of my placement I attended the pop up choir event that Dementia Friendly Leeds held in the St John’s shopping centre during dementia awareness week. The amount of people who came to sing surprised me. I thought it was going to be around 10 people for some reason, but there was at least 30 there. It was excellent to see that so many people cared about the cause and were willing to do something potentially quite embarrassing to raise awareness and help others. I didn’t sing but I helped out in my own way, handing out flyers! I will definitely remember this and how much the audience wanted to hear more songs and seemed genuinely interested in the cause, it was a really good idea to raise awareness.

I think that people really need to get behind this cause because it was obvious that a lot of groups were struggling with funding and advertisement even though the people who attend really looked like the groups help them, particularly attendees who might not go out of the house for a week at a time. Some people could miss out on the opportunity to improve their day-to-day life because of this and it would be a real shame.

I think to end this I’d just write a huge thank you to the people at Dementia Friendly Leeds for having me and helping me improve my confidence with talking on the phone and travelling around Leeds and introducing me to a wonderful cause and great people.