A woman who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in her 50s has been honoured for becoming a “beacon of light” to people affected by dementia in the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friendly Awards 2017.
Wendy Mitchell was handed the charity’s Inspiring Individual Award by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt at County Hall, London, on Wednesday November 29, in recognition of her efforts to give hope to people who are living with the condition and their loved ones.
The former NHS manager has devoted much of her time towards helping others by raising awareness since the life-changing moment when she was diagnosed with life-limiting young onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 58 in July 2014.
Wendy, a mother-of-two, is a tireless campaigner who has helped local health chiefs devise a strategy to help people with dementia and has worked with the Department of Health on the Prime Minister’s 2020 Challenge on Dementia.
And as well as getting involved in research, Wendy, who lives in the York area, also helps NHS staff and student nurses to increase their understanding of dementia and is working with the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds to help the arts world become dementia-friendly.
Wendy said: “This is very humbling and it was quite a shock as so many people like me speak out about their experiences of living with dementia and I am one of many. This will help me raise awareness about dementia in so many ways and will hopefully change the future for my daughters.”
Wendy was nominated by the trustees of the Dementia Friendly East Riding organisation who praised “her ability to avoid sugar-coating” dementia and a “wonderfully unique, engaging, open, and positive attitude to her diagnosis”.
Alzheimer’s Society Chief Executive Jeremy Hughes said: “Wendy is a real beacon of light for people affected by dementia because she gives them hope of a better future.
“Her infectious wit, her spirit and enthusiasm but above all her determination to stand up for change so that people with dementia are better understood and supported are inspirational.
“She is leading and inspiring a dementia movement that will transform the dementia landscape forever by challenging misunderstandings, changing attitudes and raising awareness.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Wendy’s story is truly inspiring. Despite her own diagnosis she has striven to support others affected by dementia and gone above and beyond in her bid to build a Dementia Friendly nation – an incredibly important campaign to stop the stigma around the condition.
“Tackling dementia is one of my top priorities as Health Secretary and I want the UK to become the best country in the world for care, support, research and awareness – so I am proud to support these awards and listen to the stories of these inspirational campaigners.”
Alzheimer’s Society ambassador Angela Rippon hosted the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friendly Awards 2017 which have been sponsored by British Gas and are now in their fourth year. The winners were:
- Dementia Partnership of the year – presented by Gary and Jackie Whiting, Award judges – Aylesbury and Chiltern CCG- My Life My Memories project Dementia Friendly Organisation of the year (small and medium) – presented by actress Lesley Sharp – Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
- Dementia Friendly Organisation of the year (large) presented by actress Lesley Sharp – British Gas
- Dementia Innovation of the year, sponsored by National Grid Plc presented by Ruby Broomfield, Community Partnerships Advisor, Corporate Responsibility & Citizenship, National Grid Plc and Frank Green, Research Network – BBC Reminiscence Archive
- Dementia Friendly Community of the year, sponsored by Boots UK – presented by Marc Donovan, Chief Pharmacist, Boots UK – Burley in Wharfedale Dementia Action Group
- Regional Journalist of the year – presented by Emma Clayton, Lifestyle Editor at the Bradford Telegraph & Argus – Jamie Coulson, Health Correspondent, BBC Look North
- National Journalist of the year – presented by Emma Clayton, Lifestyle Editor at the Bradford Telegraph & Argus – Jeremy Wilson, Daily Telegraph Deputy Football Correspondent
- Dementia Friends Champion of the Year, sponsored by BT – presented by Gav Barang, Vulnerable Customer & Nuisance Calls Manager, BT Consumer Group and Teresa Davies, Award judge – Kerry Chambers
- Young Person’s Contribution of the year – presented by actor and presenter Richard McCourt – Kian Borg-Jackson
- Fundraiser of the year (individual) sponsored by Gatwick Airport Limited – presented by Nikki Barton, Head of Terminals and Passenger Services, Gatwick Airport Limited and Lorraine Brown Simon McDermott
- Fundraiser of the year (group) sponsored by Gatwick Airport Limited – presented by Nikki Barton, Head of Terminals and Passenger Services, Gatwick Airport Limited and Lorraine Brown, Award judge – The Brailey Family/60-600 Challenge
- Inspiring Individual 2017 – presented by Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health – Wendy Mitchell
- United Against Dementia – Outstanding Contribution 2017, sponsored by British Gas – presented by Steve Crabb, Director, Consumer Vulnerability, British Gas and actress Lesley Sharp – Valerie Watson.
“Dementia devastates lives and, by 2021, one million people will be living with dementia across the UK,” added Mr Hughes.
“These awards unite communities and individuals across England and Wales to recognise, celebrate and promote the inspirational achievements of those making a real difference to people living with dementia.
“The standard of nominations received this year was truly phenomenal and there were some exceptional stories heard at the awards ceremony. All the finalists and winners at the Dementia Friendly Awards have demonstrated how we can unite against dementia and support those affected.”