For a supporter in south Wales, becoming a Dementia Friends Champion has helped her to achieve more than she thought possible.
Louise Barham first got involved with Dementia Friends because she wanted to set up a local dementia-friendly café.
Since then, she’s also become a Dementia Friends Champion and involved her community in making their area of south Wales a better place to live for people affected by dementia.
‘I thought, if I was ever to have a café, I needed more information,’ says Louise.
‘I wanted to learn more about the condition my father had,’ says Louise, who lives in Kenfig Hill, a village in the south-west of Bridgend County Borough. ‘I thought, if I was ever to have a café, I needed more information.’
Louise lived too far from her late father to be very involved in his day-to-day care. However, she’s determined to change people’s perceptions and understanding of dementia in her own community.
‘I’m happy to do Dementia Friends information sessions for absolutely anyone! I’ve been to Mothers’ Union meetings and done sessions for our local Designer Outlet, Emmaus, the police, Cynffig Comprehensive School and the top year of Pyle Primary School.
‘Everyone says they have learned something they didn’t know, and they take away something to think about,’ says Louise.
‘For the last two years, I’ve also done “open” sessions at Pyle Life Centre, where we just advertise the session in shops and anyone can just turn up.
‘Everyone says they have learned something they didn’t know, and they take away something to think about. We also get families coming who want to be able to help a family member who has dementia.’
Establishing a weekly dementia-friendly café was more of a challenge than Louise expected, but she found the support she needed at Pyle Life Centre, which hosts many community activities.
Louise says it was out of this experience that the Villages Project was born.
‘The aim of the Villages Project is to make the surrounding villages – Cefn Cribwr, Kenfig Hill, Pyle, Cornelly and Maudlam – dementia friendly.’
A dementia-friendly community is one where people with dementia are understood, respected and supported, and the project has been raising awareness so that everyone can make a difference.
‘We must bring dementia into the daylight and ensure everyone has a basic understanding of the condition and how to help,’ says Louise.
‘I’ve visited shops and businesses in the area,’ says Louise, ‘trying to explain a little about dementia and ways they can recognise it and help.’
Louise recognises the importance of involving everybody in the community, including influencers such as local MPs and Welsh Assembly members.
‘Dementia isn’t going away any time soon,’ says Louise. ‘Unless we want people to become isolated in their own homes, we must bring dementia into the daylight and ensure everyone has a basic understanding of the condition and how to help.’
Turn understanding into action
Volunteer as a Dementia Friends Champion.