Sally Townsend - Westbury On Trym Academy parents evening stand (small).jpg

We hear from Dementia Friends Staff Deliverer, Sally Townsend, on how she incorporates Dementia Friends into her role as a Community Development Coordinator for Schools in the South West region. 

“The purpose of my role is to create a more dementia-friendly youth population in schools in Bristol, for the ages of 4 – 18 years old.

The role is funded by Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service, which is a partnership between Alzheimer’s Society and NHS Devon Partnership Trust.

I have been working in a number of roles in primary schools for 25 years, and a key part of this was working with communities including inter-generational work. Personally I have personal experience of dementia through my family and also throughout my 15+ years of volunteering. 

So for me, this was the perfect role combining all elements working for the perfect organisation at Alzheimer’s Society!

My role in action consists of educating young people through a range of sessions such as assemblies, class-based Dementia Friends Sessions, sessions enabling first-hand experience through co-educating with people living with dementia.

I also educate wider school communities by working with and supporting parents and staff for example through Inset days and staff meetings, parents evenings, coffee mornings and Dementia Friends Sessions.

Actions are focused around education, but also through elements such as fundraising and enabling more positive relationships. Older students and adult actions can include becoming involved in volunteering, campaigning and research.

Over the last five years I have worked with over 50 schools, delivering in excess of 100 assemblies and 250 Dementia Friends Sessions creating a total of in excess of 27,000 pupil interactions, including 7,000 Dementia Friends!

This has resulted in school communities having a better knowledge and understanding of dementia, including pupils, parents and staff.

Perceptions have been challenged, stigma and fears have been dismantled and myths dispelled. This has been evidenced in students being afraid to attend sessions with people living with dementia initially, and then choosing to do so as a result of sessions.

Increased skills and confidence are being shown in interactions, this is evidenced in examples of family interactions. For example, a student returning to play the guitar to his great aunt having learnt the importance of emotions and understanding why she couldn’t recall their time together; a young pupil overcoming fear of her grandma and spending time cooking with her. These have been a direct result of Dementia Friends Sessions.

Pupils are inspired and motivated to make a difference, they have taken part in fundraising events in a number of schools have raised nearly £10,000 and have become side by side volunteers and companion callers. 

Inspired career choices have been made by 6th form students e.g. changing from child health and social care to adult health and social care.

People living with dementia who join me in schools show improved skills and confidence, they have increased purpose and greater joy and wellbeing.

I would recommend anyone to become a Dementia Friend as dementia either has, is or very likely will, touch all of our lives. Knowing and understanding more can help navigate this and improve lives. 

Let’s endeavour to make the best we can of each day for as long as we can, whilst being able to access support when needed.“