Volunteer Stories

 

Dementia Voice


Dementia Voice PL12 is just one of the local activities organised and run by volunteers from Community Enterprises PL12. We caught up with some of the volunteers to find out what it’s all about.


Rose, one of the Directors of CEPL12

“I moved to Cornwall when I retired and got involved in volunteering to use my skills for the benefit of the community and to meet new people. Initially I was recruited via Volunteer Cornwall to help set up a Volunteer Service for CE PL12. I also got involved with the Patient Participation Group at Saltash Health Centre, then as Chair of the PPG I was invited to attend an event organized by Port View PPG at St Barnabas Hospital which was open to anyone in the area affected by dementia. As I had cared for my mum, who had dementia, this was a topic very close to my heart. I was astounded to see the room packed, with standing room only; it was clear there was a very real need in Saltash for an organisation to support people with dementia, and to support their Carers. A forum was then held to which people who had been diagnosed with dementia, and their carers, were invited. After asking a few questions it became clear that what they really wanted was a drop-in café, where people living with dementia can chat to others who understand.” And so, Dementia Voice was set up, by a group of volunteers. Since then it’s expanded to include a Veteran’s Group (many of the attendees at the café have been ex-service personnel) and a much-loved Walking Group. Things can be done to help people living with the symptoms of the disease. A lot of people are frightened of dementia, and at Dementia Voice PL12, we can help overcome that fear; just sitting and chatting can make such a difference. People living with dementia are still the same person they’ve always been; we talk to that person, no matter how far along their journey they are - their long-term memories are still there, and so many of them have had fascinating lives, and tell the most wonderful stories. I’ve met the most wonderful people, and I get far more out of volunteering than I could ever put in.”


Linda, volunteer and co-ordinator for Dementia Voice PL12
“I recently moved to Saltash from Portsmouth. My husband had Alzheimer’s, and I volunteered in Portsmouth. Dementia – and Alzheimer’s- are difficult to understand, as everyone presents in a different way. When a partner is living with the disease, it’s easy to lose friends who don’t understand what’s happening. Dementia Voice PL12 is a lovely friendly group, and I’ve made new friends who understand the condition. Volunteering helps me give something back, and settle in to my new home in a new town. I want to help and keep busy; my son says he can never get hold of me, as I’m always busy!”


Owen, volunteer for the Drop - In Cafe and the Walking Group
“I was a full-time carer to my father for about 5 years. When he passed away, I felt lost and empty for a long time. I wanted to get back into work and thought that voluntary work would help me achieve this goal and move forward. I’ve been a volunteer at the Drop-in Café for a year or so; my neighbour said I should give it a try, so I came along and liked it and now I
come down every week. I make the tea, serve cake, and chat to different people living with dementia. If it had been around, I would definitely have brought dad here.  I also help with the Walking Group, as I like walking. We started with walks around Saltash, but now we take the Community Hopper out twice a month to different places. We’ve been to Saltram, Cotehele, Hannafore…I’ve never been to some of those lovely places before.  For people living with dementia, usually, their long-term memory isn’t affected, and their stories are fascinating. Volunteering has really helped me move forward, and has helped my confidence, and I’ve made new friends. If you’re thinking about volunteering, I would say give it a go. My next step is to get a job - if I get a part-time job it would mean I could continue volunteering.”


Carol, facilitator of Dementia Voice Veteran’s Group and Director of CEPL12
“I moved to the area in 2010, but within 6 months my husband Ken was diagnosed with vascular dementia. After spending a lot of time travelling to cognitive groups in East Cornwall, we joined the steering group for DV12 (Dementia Voice PL12) and were founder members. We have spoken at conferences and after-dinner speeches, promoting positivity in living with dementia. Dementia Voice gave Ken, and me as his carer, the tools to know that dementia didn’t mean the end of life.  Ken was a former Royal Marine, and it was his idea to start the Veteran’s Support Group.  We contacted Greenwich Place, who put us in touch with Greenwich hospital. After giving me a serious grilling asking why we wanted to start the group, they quickly made the decision to fund us, and have funded us for the last 3 years. We’re also supported by the Royal British Legion- the President and Chairman regularly drop in on a Saturday- and local organisations have given donations, which fund our day trips.  Our meetings are structured, and varied, but always with a military theme, with cognitive simulation therapy that keeps the brain working; singing, quizzes, day trips, visual reminders
like memorabilia and uniforms. One of our most popular trips was to the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, and we have a forthcoming trip to Paignton Zoo. Our volunteers are a mix of serving personnel- male and female- and veterans, and its wonderful for them to be able to swap stories with each other and the rest of the group. We support each other, and I feel privileged to facilitate the group. Strong friendships have been forged here, in a safe and comfortable environment where volunteer support, peer support, and dignity are important.  I may be on the bridge as a facilitator, but my volunteers are in the engine room, and we make it work, together, as a well-oiled machine.”