Delight and a side of chips: The joy of volunteering

Side by Side has brought joy to a volunteer in County Armagh, as well as to the person – now friend – who she supports.

Susan McNickle has been supporting the same person with dementia, Dorothy, through Side by Side for a couple of years now. For all the highlights during that time, she doesn’t hesitate when asked to pick one. 

‘Bringing her to see her friend, who lives in a nursing home,’ says Susan. ‘They used to be neighbours and I brought Dorothy to visit. The delight on both of their faces was fantastic! 

‘To know that I helped make this possible brought me so much joy,’ says Susan.

‘They were so pleased to see each other, as it had been some time since they last met. To know that I helped make this possible brought me so much joy.’ 

Volunteer with Side by Side

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Tea and chat 

Side by Side volunteers help a person with dementia to carry on doing the things that are important to them.

For Dorothy in Portadown, County Armagh, Susan’s weekly visits make it easier for her to get out and about to run errands and stay in touch. 

‘It helps her remain independent, get out and meet people, and get all her messages for the week,’ says Susan, who lives nearby in Lurgan. 

‘From time to time we call into the bus depot to pick up the latest timetables,’ says Susan.

‘She gets treats for her grandchildren, posts her letters and from time to time we call into the bus depot to pick up the latest timetables. 

‘Plus we get a wee cup of tea and a chat, and share a sausage and chips between us – we’ve gave up trying to be healthy!’

Side by Side volunteer Susan McNickle with Dorothy

Susan and Dorothy enjoy tea and chat with their sausage and chips

Meant to meet 

Susan volunteered with Side by Side after seeing the difference that support from Alzheimer’s Society and others made to her family when her father had vascular dementia. 

‘My dad was my whole world and sadly he passed away four years ago. After losing him, I wanted to give something back and help someone.’ 

‘I love to hear her stories and find out how her week has been,’ says Susan.

Susan hasn’t looked back since then. ‘Dorothy and I are great friends,’ she says. ‘We were just meant to meet each other. 

‘I enjoy her company immensely and look forward to visiting her every week. We’re quite similar in our personalities, in that we’ve a good sense of humour and we both like to help people. I love to hear her stories and find out how her week has been.’ 

Two-way street 

Susan makes clear that it’s not only Dorothy who benefits from Side by Side. 

‘The partnership is definitely a two-way street,’ she says. ‘I get just as much out of it as she does. 

‘I hope someday, if I’m ever in a similar situation, someone will be there to help me,’ says Susan.

‘I have gained a fantastic friend who is so appreciative of my help; it’s heartwarming. I have a lot of respect for the older generation and I hope someday, if I’m ever in a similar situation, someone will be there to help me. 

‘I would urge anyone to volunteer for Side by Side. In today’s society, where everyone is so busy with their own lives, I wanted to give something precious back – time. I do all this in memory of my dad.’

Dementia together magazine: Aug/Sept 19

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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5 comments

Add your own

I am so proud of my daughter Susan & I know her dad would be so pleased with the support she's giving Dorothy. Susan has an extremely busy life. She works full time & has done an excellent job raising my granddaughter single handly. Well done my girl.

Really imteresting

Thank you John 😀

Lovely read, brought tears to my eyes. I have my first training session to become a Side-by-Side volunteer tonight and it's stories like this that inspired me to do it! Well done Susan

Thank you very much Taylor. Enjoy your side by side volunteering 😀

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