The commitment followed a call to action during Dementia Awareness Week in May when Managing Director Mike Britch, whilst outlining the Group’s commitment to have a Dementia Friends Champion in every location across the business, encouraged staff to sign up as Dementia Friends.
Dementia is an important issue for the Norse Group as Mike Britch explained: “We live in an ageing society – we are all living and working longer, so supporting older people is one of the key strands of The Norse Way, our Group Corporate Social Responsibility strategy. Most people know someone living with dementia – it may be a colleague, a family member or a friend, so it was important that we used the experience of colleagues who are caring for people living with dementia every day. We feel strongly that we can all become more dementia-friendly and grow our understanding of how living with dementia may affect our colleagues, customers and communities.”
The training was delivered by Kate Grange, Dementia Lead for the Norse Group which has a number of care homes specifically for people living with dementia. She explained the role of a Dementia Friends Champion: “A Dementia Friends Champion is someone who encourages others to make a difference to people living with dementia in their community. I work with people with dementia every day and know what a difference it makes if those around them understand even just a little bit of what it might be like to live with the condition.”
Volunteers learnt about different types of dementia, took part in games and activities to heighten their awareness of what it’s like to live with the condition, and gained understanding about how being more aware of dementia could impact their own jobs.
Members of the Group’s catering division were told how different colours influence how appealing food is to people living with dementia, and how individuals’ tastes change, e.g. how they crave more sweet things. Tom Crowther from the group’s Mechanical and Engineering team learnt about how dementia affects building design, heating and cooling.
Keen to volunteer as a Dementia Champion, Donna Owen commented: “The opportunity to improve my understanding and help diminish stigma around dementia was very important to me.” Helen Fisher added: “I’m supporting large numbers of staff on a daily basis and this is something that could affect them.”
At the end of the session, participants came up with ideas to take back to their workplaces and share some of what they had learned with colleagues. These included relaying their knowledge at team meetings, developing an e-learning module, volunteering in a care home and inviting the Alzheimer’s Society in to do an information session.