Educating people about what it's like to live with dementia

Dr Ann Johnson draws on her experience of nursing as well as her personal experience of dementia as a Society Ambassador. Fiona Madden speaks to her about her busy schedule.

Ann Johnson has more experience with dementia than most, having trained as a nurse and working as a lecturer in nursing at the University of Manchester before being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease seven years ago at the age of 52.

Society Ambassador Ann Johnson receiving her doctorate

Ann has worked tirelessly with the Society. She has been involved in national TV and radio coverage, lectures and speaking to the media at various events to raise awareness of the Society, the cause and the journey of having early onset dementia.

Earlier this year she was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Bolton for her outstanding contribution to health care, becoming Dr Ann Johnson.

She says,

'The doctorate was in recognition of my work with dementia. I was there along with all the other students who were graduating. It was an amazing experience and a fantastic day. I felt so honoured.'

Biggest challenges

Ann, who lives in a residential community near Altrincham, describes her biggest challenges with dementia as relating to her short-term memory and interpreting things. These can often lead to feelings of frustration but she believes she is best placed to educate others about it.

'I know what it's like living with dementia. I bring my personal perspective to the role. A lot of people are frightened of it and frightened of us and that needs to change.'

Ann's role as an Ambassador takes her all over the country promoting the work of Alzheimer's Society, while drawing on her firsthand experiences on both the professional and personal side of the illness. She has worked alongside Prime Minister David Cameron and Andrew Lansley, the former Health Minister.

On top of things

Ann says,

'My work varies from doing TV and radio appearances. I also speak about dementia and end of life issues and I am asked to speak at conferences on these topics.

'I go wherever the Society sends me. At the moment I have the UK Dementia Congress in October, I am sitting on the Dementia Friendly Communities Champion Group and I am scheduled to go to the Isle of Man in January to speak there.'

She says she manages to keep on top of things with strategies such as using a dictaphone and listening to audiobooks. 

'As long as I have someone to come with me to the events, that's all I ask. I can't go anywhere on my own anymore so a very good friend of mine comes with me.

As long as I've got the support that I need when I travel, which I do, I'm fine.'

The Dementia Friendly Communities Champion Group is part of the Prime Minister's challenge on dementia.