Marc’s story: ‘There’s so much we can do to improve the lives of people living with dementia.’

Meet Marc, one of our Side by Side volunteers. Matched with John in early 2017, Marc tells us why he became a volunteer and is uniting against dementia.

This year thousands of people have come together to unite against dementia.

Every single one of them is a hero and makes our work possible, from those who donated through to our Side by Side volunteers.

Launched in response to the loneliness and isolation so many people with dementia report experiencing, we set up our Side by Side service to reconnect people with dementia with their communities and favourite pastimes.

This includes Marc, a Side by Side volunteer making a real difference to the life of John, who has dementia.

Watch the video to hear Marc and John’s story, and read on to find out more about their blossoming friendship.

Marc's volunteering story

My name’s Marc and I’m a Side by Side volunteer. My father has had Alzheimer’s disease for the last 15 years, so I know how challenging living with dementia can be.

I really wanted to help others with the condition and felt like I had accumulated the right experience to do so. I was also eager to do something with an individual on a long term basis - Side by Side seemed perfect. As soon as I saw the advert in my local area, I applied.

Fast forward 2 months and I was matched with John! We’ve been meeting every week ever since.

Getting matched with John

John is quite a character. A cheeky chappie and lots of fun, we clicked straight away.

We share many of the same interests. From walking to ten-pin bowling to visiting local National Trust parks, we spend our time exploring new places in Surrey and revisiting old ones. Either that or he’s beating me at bowling with his impressive spinning technique!

Given we both love walking, the countryside and a bit of friendly competitiveness, this makes for an ideal match. I can’t see us getting bored anytime soon...

We’ve also singled out some really nice spots to have a coffee or cup of tea for after. Inevitably we’ll end up with a big slice of cake too (and the odd sausage roll…)

The perfect way to round off a trip, it’s become a bit of a tradition of ours.

A friendship forms

When you spend a bit of time with someone, you get to know their interests, their sense of humour and their history. You find those things in common. And that’s exactly how it worked with John.

We’ve become very fond of each other. I hope our trips keeps him interested in the wide world, as I know he can’t easily get out on his own to do these things.

John, Side by Side service user in front of a classical car

John during one of their Side by Side visits

That’s the best part of volunteering - it helps someone else, but you also get a load of satisfaction out of it too.

Never underestimate the power of a nice view and a cup of tea.

We’ve both gained a new friend and we’ve both been able to explore new places and try new things. I’m indebted to John as much as he is me.

To anyone toying with the idea of volunteering, I’d definitely encourage you to go for it. Despite what you might think, it isn’t hard work at all.

Once you get into the swing of things and learn about the individual, you very much look forward to it.

Given that dementia affects so many of us, I believe it’s really important that we all try and unite against it in some way. Whether it’s Side by Side, fundraising or supporting dementia research projects, there is so much we can do to improve the lives of people living with the condition.

Never underestimate the power of a nice view and a cup of tea.

Unite against dementia

This festive season, we want to thank all the incredible volunteers making a difference to people affected by dementia every day.

If you’d like to support someone living with dementia and help them continue doing the things they love, take a look at the ways you can volunteer. Read more Side by Side stories.

6 comments

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A great story. As we are as far away as ever for a cure we have to focus on improving lives!

I was amazed to read Marc’s story about his role of a Dide by Side volunteer, in that he started off by saying his father had Alzheimer’s for fifteen years! I had always thought that people did not survive the disease for that long? Would that be because his father had it from a comparatively young age? What is the usual prognosis in terms of longevity? Is their data regarding that?
My husband is 78 and has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia. He is doing quite well now and able to take the medication ( despite the first drug , donapezil , making him sick) .
Being able to read other people's experience is very helpful for me and often reassuring and sometimes scary too.

Side by Side Service is a tremendous help , but like many others the Blessings received personally seem to be even greater . Well done Marc .

My own efforts on behalf of people living with Alzheimer's Disease has been to prove that this is a Medical situation that NHS have already agreed is a "Primary Health Need". It should be eligible for Continuing Healthcare Benefits & the award of a "Personal Budget" to pay for all necessary Social & Personal Care needs.
Nursing my late Wife Pauline I know she loved to get out doors & go somewhere every day to provide stimulation. This had to be together or with someone she knew well because of the memory issues. Only when I could not manage all Care needs on my own did I find out about this NHS benefit which is not Means Tested.

Details to help you are on my website https://continuinghealthcare.wordpress.com/

Best wishes . Peter Garside

I would like to comment on the word dementia. I think it is a cruel word. It means MAD. The dementers in Harry Potter are not nice. Above all - it doesn't describe what most of us carers and volunteers are dealing with.
The doctors have given us this word. I would suggest a modification for the early stages of the condition. How about ARMD? Age Related Memory Deficiency.
As a precedent I would cite AIDS - now we talk about HIV as the early stage and it isn't that ABSOLUTE diagnosis.
Once those with Downs Syndrome were medically 'idiots' then Mongols was considered a kinder word, till it was realised you simply couldn't say that. Now we say 'Downs'. We all know what we mean, but the word itself isn't an insult.
I vividly recall my mother saying to me ' I'm not going mad am I Sarah?'
' No Mum,' I repeatedly replied ' It is just your memory is a bit rubbish these days.'
We should not let the medics force this word on us under the guise of 'Raising awareness' . It is unnecessarily cruel.

I like your question of what to call the condition. I looked up the root of the word which is "Late 18th century: from Latin, from demens, dement- ‘out of one's mind’."
According to the Oxford ...A chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning.

But finding a kinder word for the condition would be helpful. We call it forgetfulness at the moment but of course this won't surfice for long.

Lets keep pressing for a kinder name for early Dementia. I'm going to have a go at our next awareness session. I help at a local Memory Cafe.

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