Researcher uses Fellowship to make local charity more dementia friendly

Date 16.10.2019

Two University staff members are looking to increase how dementia friendly a local charity’s staff are thanks to an in-house social change fellowship.

Alison Ward – researcher in the Faculty of Health, Education and Society – and Nissy Cheema – International Student Support Services Team Leader – are recipients of the University of Northampton’s Changemaker* Fellowship: Leadership for Social Change.

Part of the Fellowship – which will help Alison and Nissy develop their leadership skills in line with the University’s social impact ethos – involves the two working closely with a charity for a year.

They are supporting Age UK Northamptonshire to develop in-house training so their staff members are more aware of – and better able to respond to – the needs of people who have dementia and their family/carers.

Their work – which will conclude in June next year – is already well under way, as Alison explains: “We officially started with the Age UK Northamptonshire team in June and have already held focus groups with their staff to see what level of dementia training they need and what their existing skills in this area are.

“Some of their staff have a lot of expertise and work closely with people who have a diagnosis of dementia – in hospitals or day care centres, for instance – whilst backroom or shop staff tend to have less experience or knowledge.

“Feedback so far has been really useful, as some just want a timely, ‘dementia awareness’ refresher course and others want a more in-depth understanding of what dementia is, the signs and symptoms. Not everyone who is older has dementia, so spotting when someone does is important as your interaction will be much more positive.

“The next step is designing and delivering appropriate training for all but so far it’s been a really encouraging exercise and the team at Age UK Northamptonshire are very committed to developing their dementia expertise.”

The other side of the Changemaker Fellowship is that Alison and Nissy both have to raise at least £500 each for Age UK Northamptonshire and the duo have already lined up their first event.

As Alison adds: “Nissy and I have a few ideas up our sleeve, but we are keeping things nice and simple to begin with a good old, reliable cake sale to be held between 10am and 3pm on 31 October at Waterside campus.

“I used to run my own homemade cakes company until a few years ago, so I have some experience of whipping up tasty and appealing looking creations. True to the season, the cakes will be Halloween themed so expect lots of ghost, spiderweb, pumpkin and devil offerings!

“We’ll be under the big screen on the ground floor of the Learning Hub, which is fully open to the public. Prices will be a competitive £1 a cake, so anyone walking through campus who fancies helping a good cause and getting some extra energy for their travels, are welcome to nip in buy a cupcake, brownie or loaf cake. We’ll even have gluten free and vegan cake options, too.”

The University’s survey looking at how dementia friendly organisations in the town are and what support they need in this area is still open. Organisations are asked to lend their views and start the same journey as Age UK Northamptonshire.

Find out more about the University of Northampton’s Dementia Research and Innovation Centre.