Hazel is a community-based Dementia Adviser in Nottinghamshire. At this challenging time of year, made even more difficult due to the cost of living crisis, Hazel discusses what her work means to her, and the difference our advisers can make to anyone affected by dementia.
I first encountered dementia as a student nurse, before studying business management at university. I then moved to the US where I ran my own business.
Then, my Mum got Alzheimer’s disease and she was in complete denial.
Her symptoms developed quickly, so I moved back to the UK to help. Sadly, however, Mum passed away within months of her diagnosis, so I decided at that point to retire.
Hazel's mum, pictured on her wedding day.
I soon realised I needed something to keep me busy, so I volunteered with several dementia and older people’s charities. Then, 18 months ago, I joined Alzheimer’s Society, supporting people affected by dementia in a former mining area of Nottinghamshire.
My role as a Dementia Adviser
Everyone with dementia is unique, and so too are their loved ones. Dementia Advisers like me support whole families in a way that suits their individual needs – whether that’s in their home or the memory clinic.
We offer emotional support, which is why empathy skills are essential to this job.
It’s vital that people affected by dementia know they have someone to trust, who understands what they’re going through and won’t judge them.
To avoid overwhelming people, we provide them with the most relevant information at the right time by keeping in touch throughout their dementia journey.
Practical advice and emotional support
We also refer people to the help they need from other local or national organisations. This includes things like carer or financial assessments, occupational therapists, and safeguarding teams.
And lastly, we offer general practical advice and guidance to help people make informed decisions.
This often means answering questions about dementia and care, like ‘how do we get a live in carer?’ or ‘how do I go about finding a care home?’
Helping people through difficult situations
I support several people who are incredibly worried about affording food and energy bills amid the cost of living crisis – so much so that as a team, we’re looking into local food banks and warm rooms.
However, for someone with dementia, a warm room isn’t necessarily a solution. It’s out of their routine, in an unfamiliar place, and likely to be noisy and overwhelming.
In addition, Christmas is coming. Holidays can be stressful and disruptive for someone with dementia, and carers often face the dual pressure of caring duties and entertaining the family.
Through her work as a Dementia Adviser, Hazel helps people affected by dementia with their many challenges.
Offering advice around festive periods
Events like Christmas, Eid, and Diwali are present throughout someone’s life – if you can maintain a sense of tradition for someone with dementia, while tailoring it to their current needs, they’ll still have a great time.
I’ve been talking to my clients about how they can scale back but still enjoy the celebrations.
To make festivities easier, I usually suggest to set up a quiet area for someone living with dementia. You could also serve foods that you know they like, turn the music down, give them dementia-friendly gifts to enjoy – essentially avoiding things that might agitate them or feel unfamiliar.
This won’t necessarily stop a carer feeling overwhelmed however, and many of my clients are the people who always host holidays, so I typically suggest letting someone else host, if they can. It’s so important that carers look after themselves.
If anyone is struggling this festive season, I’d encourage them to call our Dementia Connect Support Line.
What my job means to me
It feels wonderful to make such a difference to someone’s life.
I recently supported a woman whose husband had dementia. She’d discovered all their money was gone and they’d acquired huge debts, because the husband had spent everything and taken out loans without understanding.
He’d always been in charge of the household finances, so she had no idea until it was too late, and the bailiffs started calling.
As she’d never managed household finances, I got people round to help her with debt management, benefits checks, and balancing household books. I also supported her to better manage her husband’s dementia.
She feels so much more confident now that she knows how to control the finances and better support her husband, which makes me feel incredibly proud.
It's so rewarding to help people through their hardest times, changing their lives in big and small ways.
I love my job because it feels worthwhile, and I feel privileged that people trust me with intimate details of their lives.
Because I want to repay their trust, I enjoy making extra effort to get them the help they need.
How you can help
People with dementia will remember how you made them feel. The smallest actions can make a huge difference, and everyone has a role to play in enhancing life for people affected by dementia.
Whether that’s donating to organisations like Alzheimer’s Society, doing work like mine, or visiting a loved one with dementia – we can all do so much to make life better for people affected by this condition.
Donate to help fund our services
Your support today could make sure no one faces dementia alone, especially during a financially challenging winter.