This Volunteers' Week (1 - 7 June) we want to highlight some of the various ways to give back and get involved in volunteering for Alzheimer’s Society. We talk to five volunteers who tell us what volunteering means to them.
Sally – Singing for the Brain group support volunteer
I started going to Singing for the Brain as a carer for my late partner Roy, who was living with dementia. He loved their local Singing for the Brain group, it was the best day of his week.
After Roy passed, I wanted to give back for all the help that I had received as a carer, and I wanted to give help and support to other carers. I volunteered for my local Singing for the Brain group in 2010 and haven’t looked back.
I want everything that I’ve learned and experienced from my own dementia journey to be shared with others and not be wasted.
The best thing about volunteering is feeling useful. I’m always there for anyone who needs to talk, and everyone knows that I have my own experience, so I can genuinely empathise with their situation and the challenges they face every day.
Heather – Dementia Friends Champion
I walked the path with my mum on her dementia journey and was so deeply affected by the whole experience that I had to turn her experience into something positive.
After witnessing families and carers struggling to come to terms with what was happening to their loved ones, I recognised a need for educating and supporting them, and the wider public, about dementia so they may be better equipped to cope.
All the work I do as a Dementia Friends Champion is in my mother’s memory.
Becoming a Dementia Friends Champion and presenting the Dementia Friends Information Sessions has provided me with many opportunities to raise awareness within the local community. I’ve created an incredible 568 Dementia Friends over 3 years. I know, not only that the presentations are working fantastically, but that I have, through my emotive delivery of the session, got the message through. So rewarding.
Daisy – Side by Side volunteer
I started volunteering with Alzheimer’s Society as I have experienced the effects of dementia within my family, and wanted to give back to others who were affected.
Often it can be hard to see someone you love changed by dementia as your relationship is also forced to change. However, as a volunteer you get to know the person as they are now – making it a much more positive experience for both of you.
One of my favourite experiences from volunteering was when I brought a book along to one of my meetings, which had old pictures of Bristol and the University. To my surprise, my buddy took great pleasure in telling me all about the different areas and some of the moments he had spent there.
It was so nice to feel like I had helped him to remember something so special, and to see his face light up at something he recognised well.
Sian – Dementia Café lead volunteer
After my Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, I didn’t know what to do, I only knew that I wanted to help. I started doing supermarket collections with my mum, but as I got older and more involved I quickly realised that there was so much else on offer.
When the Dementia Cafés were launched, I initially helped behind the tea and coffee counter whenever I was off school for the holidays. Eventually I became a lead volunteer, helping to train new volunteers and run the counter service, a role that I juggled whilst also studying for my degree.
Later I started volunteering for Singing for the Brain. Memories of twirling around the makeshift dance floor and laughing with the inspiring and truly fantastic people that I met during my time with the group are still some of my fondest volunteering memories today.
Nicole – Side by Side volunteer
The lady I visit is home alone all day as her family work full-time. She is lonely and isolated, and my visits break up her day and provide company and stimulation. She regards me as a friend and has told me that she refers to me, when talking to others, as her ‘best friend’. Her face always lights up when she answers the door to me and she is disappointed when it is time for me to leave.
Through Side by Side volunteering, I have gained a new friend. She is very vocal about how much she enjoys time spent together and thanks me for my time (I always tell her she doesn’t need to thank me, I enjoy her company and am having fun too). This positive feedback provides me with a sense of pride.
Volunteering and seeing the difference I make to this lady’s day generates a feel-good experience and has a positive impact on my own mental well-being.