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We hear from Dementia Friends Ambassador, Rob Catlow, about what his role entails and why it's so important to dispel the myths surrounding dementia. 

Rob’s father sadly died of dementia in 2010 and the year following this he became a volunteer for Alzheimer’s Society. For around 10 years Rob was a member of his local Campaigning and Fundraising Group, which was wound up during the Covid pandemic. It was here that he met some fantastically dedicated volunteers and local office staff and heard first hand other people's experiences with loved ones living with dementia. It was they who encouraged Rob to train up as a Dementia Friend Champion.

Rob became a Champion in 2014 and transitioned into the new role of Ambassador in 2022. Ambassadors are volunteers who do vital work to raise awareness and change attitudes about dementia through delivering Dementia Friends Sessions.

Rob said: "My posh title is Dementia Friends Ambassador. It doesn’t make me an expert. I'm not a doctor or a counsellor, I'm a bloke whose dad had dementia but I’ve learnt a bit about it since I retired."

“I think the benefit people get from attending a Dementia Friends Session is awareness of what dementia is, and what it isn’t. We can’t cure it, at the moment, but society and local communities can learn from the Sessions and react in a kind and more patient way for people living with dementia.

“There’s currently more than 900,000 people living with dementia and that touches so many different people, including their families, friends, carers and colleagues. It’s so important to get that message across to try and dispel the stigma so people are less scared of it.” 

Rob has delivered many Dementia Friends Information Sessions in organisations, schools and community groups near to where he lives in Cheshire. In total he has delivered 293 Sessions and made 6,751 Dementia Friends!

Rob recalls: “One recent highlight I had was from a Dementia Friends Session I delivered to a Year 12 class. After learning about the different symptoms of dementia in the Session, one of the students noticed that their Grandad was experiencing these symptoms and so their family sought a diagnosis for him and were able to get care and support for him.  

“Knowing that I help other people by doing what I do and I save other people from reinventing the wheel is what matters to me most.” 

Rob has also been on Alzheimer’s Society Volunteer Advisory Panel for three years. The Volunteer Advisory Panel is a group of enthusiastic volunteers and trusted experts by experience. They play a critical role in supporting the Society to be a great place to volunteer for all – influencing and constructively challenging discussions around the volunteering strategy, offer and experience.  

One key partnership Rob has formed since he started delivering Dementia Friends Sessions has been with Clear Cut Financial Planning in Ledsham, Cheshire.  

In 2019, a member of the Clear Cut Team was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s and the staff were keen to understand and support them and they also wanted to raise awareness and spread the word. In 2020, Rob delivered a Session to staff and since then he has led dedicated Dementia Friends coffee mornings for staff and clients every few months.  

Clear Cut have also chosen Alzheimer’s Society as their Charity of the Year and have raised over £4,000 with fundraising activities, like supporting the Forget Me Not Appeal, a Three Peaks Challenge, Memory Walk and other sponsored events.  

Watch a video made by Clear Cut featuring Rob here - Dementia Friends (