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THE BENEFITS OF BEING A DEMENTIA FRIEND; It's Dementia Awareness Week - the perfect time to become a Dementia Friend. Here two young students from Harris City Academy Crystal Palace, Croydon, explain why they decided to make a difference to the lives of people living with the condition...

Jaylesh Jani, 18, from Croydon, is studying for his A-levels and has a part-time job in a pharmacy.

He said: "I first heard about being a Dementia Friend during an assembly by my science teacher, Miss Tagore. She was organising a Dementia Friends awareness session and I was intrigued and decided to go along and find out more. Dementia wasn't something I knew much about - despite the fact that my job in a pharmacy means I meet lots of older members of the public.

"But hearing all about the types of dementia and how it could affect people's behaviour really helped explain some of the problems that certain customers experience when in the pharmacy.

"For example, we have people who get confused about where they are or have problems counting out their money to pay. Now I'm a Dementia Friend I can be much more understanding and reassure them they are in the right place, or that they've given me the right money."

Jaylesh added: "I now find just asking people with dementia how their day is going can make a real difference to them. Wearing my Dementia Friends badge is a talking point too and I'm often asked about it. I've built up trust with many customers with dementia and can actually call them friends. I'd never have pictured myself being mates with someone in their sixties, but one particular customer with dementia even invited me for lunch on his birthday. I'm so glad I decided to become a Dementia Friend and would encourage anyone to do the same."

Tamara Sayers, 16, from Croydon, is also studying for her A-levels and works part-time in a tearoom.

She said: "Miss Tagore is my tutor and when she told me about Dementia Friends I was interested in finding out more. In my job as a waitress I serve lots of older people, some of whom live with dementia and can forget what they've ordered or get confused about money so I was keen to learn how I could help.

"One of the most interesting things I learnt was about the biological process of dementia and how it not only affects memory, but can also alter how people see things and understand the world around them. I hadn't realised that dementia was just an umbrella term for lots of different brain diseases, with Alzheimer's being the most common.

"I also learnt how many of us stereotype people with dementia and forget to see the individual behind the condition."

Tamara added: "Becoming a Dementia Friend has changed my attitude at work. I now try even harder to be calm, kind and patient with customers I know have dementia, to reassure them if they get worried or confused. I'm also more patient if they take a bit longer to remember their order or pay. I always chat more and find out a bit about their life - it's interesting hearing their stories about the good times and feels nice to know I'm improving their day.

"I've pledged to share the Dementia Friends message with people I know, to spread the word about the little things we can do to help those with dementia live better."

Become a Dementia Friend TODAY

Show your support for the 670,000 people in England living with dementia. Become a Dementia Friend by visiting dementiafriends.org.uk to watch our short video full of advice on helping people to live with dementia, or to find a learning session near you.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 22, 2014
Words:580
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