Students praised as university campus becomes dementia friendly

University of Chester students and staff have been working hard to make the Warrington Campus a Dementia Friendly Campus.

Led by Dean McShane, Lecturer in Mental Health and Learning Disability, Dementia Friends Information Sessions have been held throughout the spring term to encourage staff and students to learn more about helping people with dementia.

A Dementia Friends Champion is a volunteer who encourages others to make a positive difference to people living with dementia in their community. They do this by giving them information about the personal impact of dementia, and what they can do to help. 

Two students, Dikirani Anderson and Gemma Thomas (pictured), have both become Dementia Friends Champions.

They took part in a full day of training learning more about dementia and how to deliver the Sessions to others in the best way.

Dikirani, 31, from Dartford, Kent, is studying for a degree in Mental Health Nursing. He said: “I became a Dementia Friends Champion to help people affected by dementia to feel included and supported in their community. Dementia is an illness that sees no colour, so it is everyone’s responsibility fight the stigma associated with people with dementia.”

In his voluntary role, Dikirani is a Champion for the Dementia Friends programme and promotes that everyone should be treated with respect and dignity through delivering Sessions which encourage others to take action in their community. He said: “Being a Dementia Friends Champion is open to all staff and students. By taking part, it can really help to students to build their self-esteem and sense of purpose. I really enjoy making a difference to people with dementia.”

He added: “My favourite part of the course is experiencing all the different types of nursing, especially the field of forensic nursing, as I used to work with South Yorkshire Police and NHS hospitals. This prepares students into the changing world of nursing for the future.”

Gemma Thomas, 34, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, chose to study Adult Nursing at the Warrington Campus as it was close to home.

She said: “Dementia has always been a subject of interest to me, I have worked in sectors with people who have dementia and I wanted to expand that knowledge. I also watched a film called Still Alice, about a young woman who had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s and it really struck a chord with me. The majority of people I had cared for in the past with dementia had usually been of an older generation, I don’t think it had really occurred to me this could happen to any of us and at any age. 

“I felt I needed to educate myself further in the subject, I did this by firstly becoming a Dementia Friend and I then went on to do the Champion training to help get the message across.

“It’s a great feeling to know you are making a difference to the way dementia is perceived and changing those attitudes.”

The role involves going out to deliver the Dementia Friends Sessions to a wide variety of people – this can be a friend or family member to bigger groups of professionals. Gemma is particularly looking forward to delivering a Session in a local school.

Dean McShane said: “A common difficulty that organisations have when trying to create a dementia friendly community is finding people with a “can do” attitude, but this has not been the case here at Warrington.

“From the moment I discussed the project with students, I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and eagerness from so many to help with this project. Gemma and Dikirani were the first two champions and I was so proud watching them run their first Dementia Friends session together recently at the Warrington Wolves stadium. Thanks to students like Gemma and Dikirani, we have been able to create a Dementia Friendly campus”.

Picture (c) University of Chester.