Online champion: Dementia Friends is adapting and growing

Louise Rigglesford, a Dementia Friends Champion in West Sussex, shares how she’s taken her Dementia Friends sessions online.

Dementia Friends is a really effective scheme – a great way to dispel some of the common myths about dementia. The key messages are very useful and we use them as a basis when planning any of our dementia-friendly sessions at Chichester Festival Theatre, where I’m Senior Community and Outreach Manager. 

Since becoming a Dementia Friends Champion, I have led 32 sessions and created 314 Dementia Friends.

Prior to lockdown, the face-to-face sessions I led have been to a mixture of theatre staff – both public facing and back of house teams – partner organisations and members of the public.

Louise Rigglesford

Each session is varied, but participants are generally engaged and ask questions throughout. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone not want to become a Dementia Friend at the end of a session!

Compassion and patience 

Prior to working at Chichester Festival Theatre, I had done some work with Spare Tyre Theatre Company on a performance project for people living with dementia. This was my first experience in working directly with people with a diagnosis within care homes, and shortly after my grandmother received a diagnosis as well. 

Once I began my current role, I was keen to further our work in this area so I became a Dementia Friends Champion to ensure that all of our staff and freelancers approach people living with dementia with the same level of compassion and patience. 

Our regular dementia-friendly activity includes a weekly singing group, practical sessions within care homes using materials from our archive as creative stimulus, and work with local charity Dementia Support, who run a dementia hub in nearby Tangmere. 

We are interested in developing sensory sessions for individuals in care settings to cater for people in the more advanced stages of dementia, particularly for those who are largely non-mobile or non-verbal. 

Our plans to progress this area of work have been put on hold a little during lockdown, but we hope to pick this up in the future. We are also excited to host our first dementia-friendly performance of South Pacific next summer. 

Going online 

Earlier this year, I took part in additional training around delivering Dementia Friends online and my most recent two sessions have been led using Zoom. The first of these was with employees from one of our corporate sponsors, and the second was a public session as part of our recent Ageless Week celebrations. 

As with a lot of organisations, we have adapted a lot of our work to be delivered remotely and it has been fantastic to be able to continue offering Dementia Friends information sessions. 

The adaptations that were suggested by the Dementia Friends team were very clear, and I have really enjoyed the challenge of delivering sessions remotely.

I would absolutely encourage anyone thinking of becoming a champion to do so. Dementia Friends has really helped us towards becoming a more welcoming environment for people living with dementia. 

Dementia Friends

Become a Dementia Friend to learn more about what it is like to live with dementia and turn that understanding into action.

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Dementia together magazine: Oct/Nov 20

Dementia together magazine is for everyone in the dementia movement and anyone affected by the condition.
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Dementia together magazine is for everyone in the dementia movement and anyone affected by the condition.
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