National recognition for Dementia NI’s innovative approach during pandemic
The Northern Irish charity, which was founded by people with dementia and is led by members who want to challenge the stigma around a diagnosis, was named a finalist in the Innovation category in the Dementia Hero Awards 2021.
The online awards, hosted by Richard Madeley, took place during Dementia Action Week (17 to 23 May) to showcase the stories of people doing outstanding things during the pandemic.
Organisers said they received more than 450 nominations from across England, Wales and Northern Ireland and praised the care and compassion, innovation, and dedication shown in supporting people affected by dementia.
Dementia NI was named a finalist in the Innovation category for running a project which found new ways to connect members, providing dementia friendly tablet devices and training, so that those struggling with technology challenges or confidence issues would not be left out.
As well as running online activities for promoting physical and mental health such as yoga, mindfulness workshops and singalongs they developed a private peer support group ‘In the Same Boat’ for Dementia NI members on Facebook.
People who received a diagnosis during the pandemic could also attend ‘In the Same Boat’ online sessions so that they could chat to staff and another person with dementia about their concerns to see that a full life is still possible.
Chief executive of Dementia NI Clare Watson said: “Our members have a positive message to share and want to reach out to others with a dementia diagnosis to show that it is possible to continue to live well with dementia.
“They use their experiences and opinions to drive improvements to services and support for people with dementia, to better meet their individual needs and challenge the stigma surrounding dementia.
“We are delighted that they have received national recognition for their work in continuing to drive positive change for people, even in the middle of a pandemic. What they have achieved is inspiring.”
Dementia NI plays a vital role in helping people with dementia remain connected to each other and their communities and the charity’s focus during the pandemic was ensuring this continued as extended isolation was especially difficult for those with dementia.
“COVID-19 had a huge impact on how the charity carried out its activities. Our members were no longer able to meet in person in their empowerment groups but with some innovative thinking, we were able to adapt quickly to continue our vital work during the pandemic.
“We are thrilled that Dementia NI has been recognised for a project which ensured that people with dementia across Northern Ireland were able to have much needed contact with each other throughout a very challenging period.”
Dementia NI member Allison Batchelor, age 61 from Dundonald was diagnosed with dementia in 2017 and says that becoming involved with the charity has changed her life.
She said: “When I first got a diagnosis I was scared, angry, worried and depressed but at the same time relieved to eventually know what was wrong. If I wasn’t part of Dementia NI I know my condition would have deteriorated much more quickly.
“Dementia NI gives us a voice and empowers us to tell our stories so they are heard. We also get the opportunity to meet with different professional bodies before decisions are made and we are asked what we think rather than being told what is best for us.
“Unless you are living with dementia you can’t truly understand what it is like. Dementia NI has given me a purpose and a reason to get up in the morning and to keep going.
“I am eternally grateful to them, especially for the way that have enabled us to continue to support each other during the pandemic.”
For more information on the charity go to www.dementiani.org or phone 028 9693 1555.
About Dementia NI
The charity works across Northern Ireland.
Founded in 2015, by five people who had been diagnosed with dementia, Dementia NI is a member led organisation specifically for people living with the condition and now has around 60 members across Northern Ireland.
Its founders wanted to ensure that the voice of people living with dementia was at the core of policy, practice and service delivery across Northern Ireland. Members use their experiences and opinions to make improvements to the services and support provided to them, to better meet their individual needs and challenge the stigma surrounding dementia.
Dementia NI promotes the right for people living with dementia to be involved in decisions that affect their lives and supports people with dementia to raise awareness in their own right. It offers support to others who are living with the symptoms.
Please note that charity refers to people living with dementia or diagnosed with dementia and does not use the term ‘dementia sufferer’.