Creating a moment

From the February / March 2018 issue of our magazine, we speak to a South Wales volunteer and activist who is committed to supporting people with dementia.

Volunteer Ceri Higgins.

As well as caring for her father, who has dementia, Ceri Higgins has been volunteering for Alzheimer's Society in a variety of ways for many years.

'The reality is that, as a carer I am also living with dementia, and I intend to engage with it,' says Ceri of Rhondda Cynon Taf in south Wales.

Laughter and friendship

Ceri is lead volunteer for the Society's Cwm Taf choir, a singing group for people with dementia and their carers.

After first supporting the choir informally while attending with her parents, she became a registered volunteer three years ago.

'I've enjoyed every session - it's very special,' she says.

'It's about creating enjoyment, laughter and friendship, while maintaining a person's independence,' says Ceri.

Ceri also volunteers at the Freetime group in Merthyr Tydfil, where carers offer each other support while relatives with dementia enjoy indoor games and activities.

'It's about creating enjoyment, laughter and friendship, while maintaining a person's independence,' says Ceri.

'It's gives people a huge sense of achievement at a time when society is telling them what they can and can't do.'

Ceri offers additional support to her local Society team by helping out at events to raise funds and awareness, including Memory Walk and the Royal Welsh Show.

She is also a trustee for her local dementia-friendly community steering group - people from local organisations who work together to improve the lives of people with dementia in their area.

'This is hugely important to me, as people affected by dementia should be an equal part of their communities,' she says.

As if this all wasn't enough, Ceri also speaks to the media about her experiences as a carer.

'I never shy away from a radio interview or television appearance,' she says.

Lived experience

So what is Ceri's motivation for being so involved with our work?

'Alzheimer's Society listened to my dad when nobody else would,' she says. 'My commitment to making a difference began as a way of thanking them.'

Ceri believes that her 20 years spent caring for family members helps her to do this.

'There's nothing like the real lived experience,' she says. 'I can empathise with group members by showing genuine understanding.'

Her volunteering has provided some memorable moments.

'The most humbling and standout experiences for me were the gentleman in choir who stood up and sang a solo, or the lady who hit the jack when playing bowls for the first time.

'At Memory Walk, a man approached the finish line in his wheelchair and asked his family to help him walk the last few steps.'

Ceri knows that her volunteering has a positive impact on the lives of people with dementia.

'It's about creating a moment for that person,' she says.

It has also bought about benefits for her. 'I'm engaging with who I was before I became a carer,' she says. 'Volunteering allows me time to be me.'

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