Nandini Balakumar is a Dementia Friends Champion with a passion for helping spread knowledge and respect for people in all walks of life. Here, she tells us about why she became a Champion, the connection to her work at the British Heart Foundation and her top tips for delivering great virtual Sessions!
Nandini ready to deliver a Session
“The Dementia Friends initiative is promoted in the British Heart Foundation due to the connection to vascular dementia. A Champion once attended an away day at work, and I was so inspired by what I’d learnt I wanted to be able to share the knowledge myself. I had experience caring for a friend who had dementia, and colleagues often told me I was empathetic and a good speaker, so I signed up to become a Champion!
With a lot of other illnesses people see the person first, but this often doesn’t happen with dementia, a lot of the time people don’t have any patience and it’s so important for us to give more time and understanding. I wanted to be able to spread this message to all generations.”
Nandini says it cost nothing to be a Champion: “I just give some of my time and I can help spread knowledge and raise awareness.”
Due to the pandemic Nandini’s face-to-face Sessions were cancelled and she jumped at the chance to attend training on how to deliver Sessions virtually, seeing it as a great opportunity to continue reaching people. Soon, she was ready to go:
“The British Heart Foundation ran ‘Knowvember’ sessions for staff, and Lauren, a colleague of mine, who had seen me do a face to face Session, asked me to run a virtual Dementia Friends Session. We had 120 people join! On the Session I was able to see the chat, and the comments from attendees, and this made it a very interactive experience for all of us.
I found myself getting a bit emotional at some of the comments, it really hurts me to see so many people suffer inside, not knowing what to do. I’ve always been someone who thinks it’s important to spread knowledge, whether it’s reading a book to a child or an older person who is unable to read, I’m always happy to give my time to people who need it. Helping someone doesn’t have to be financial, you can just give your time and be there for someone.”
Nandini also recently had the opportunity to run a Session for Lloyds bank and she was able to achieve her personal yearly Dementia Friends target of 250 in that one Session!
“I had a wonderful reaction from the group, there were many people who said they wish they’d had this knowledge when they needed it. Someone who was a Care Home manager looking after people with dementia for 10 years told me they’d learnt things from the Session, and many people with family members with dementia said it made a real difference being able to understand what was happening to them, and why.”
Nandini is passionate about helping people, and finds being a Champion helps with sharing knowledge and giving back to the community: “I am privileged to have been in three continents at a young age and brought up with a mix of cultures, and the way I look at the world is treat someone the way you want to be treated - with respect. Part of the message in my talk is about respecting people and giving them support and understanding. One can continue to live well with dementia, and you can manage that relationship by seeing the person and not the illness."
It's always lovely to hear the feedback received by Champions after their Sessions, Nandini has been told she is a 'fabulous ambassador for Dementia Friends' and has shared some feedback that particularly highlights how a wealth of information can be taken away from the Sessions:
"I would like to say how much I took from Nandini’s Session – really informative, has taught me a great deal in such a short space of time and for this I am grateful."
Why not follow in Nandini's footsteps and get started with virtual Sessions? Nandini says: "I like doing virtual Sessions because I’m able to devote my time, it is easy to fit in and it doesn’t cost me anything!”