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Volunteer Dementia Befriender to Age UK Camden Staff

Published on 05 June 2023 09:58 AM

When you decide to be a volunteer for Age UK Camden you become part of the family. We caught up with Katerina who started her Age UK Camden journey as a volunteer Dementia Befriender and now works for us as a Dementia Wellbeing Worker.

1. How long had you been volunteering as a Dementia Befriender?

I embarked on my Age UK Camden volunteering journey at the end of 2021. Since then, I have been matched with 3 lovely women.

2. What attracted you to the role and why did you want to volunteer at Age UK Camden?

After getting a conversion master’s degree in psychology, I happened to have quite a lengthy employment gap. I was looking into opportunities to get back on track by doing something meaningful. There are many amazing organisations in the UK in need of volunteers, but Age UK Camden’s advert resonated with me deeply. If you also grew up being very close with your grandparents, you probably know the feeling.

3. Were there any challenges within your role?

You need to learn to look at the world through the eyes of people living with dementia. There are many stereotypes and myths surrounding dementia that might get in your way. Some people tend to think that dementia is a part of natural aging, or it is just a memory loss. Some others assume that every individual living with dementia cannot make their own decisions. Once, someone even asked me if it was safe for me to visit people diagnosed with dementia in their homes on my own - that was probably the most unexpected question about my role as a befriender I have ever heard.

Such misconceptions about dementia often come from lack of awareness. The training provided by Age UK Camden is designed to address this issue and equip potential volunteers with the knowledge and skills essential for the befriender role. The main lesson I have learnt is that every person is unique. There are as many ways of experiencing dementia as there are people living with it.

Moreover, whatever challenges I faced as a befriender, I always felt supported and guided whenever I needed it. Some volunteers have mentioned Tracey McDermott in their stories. Well, they do it for a reason. She is one of the best supervisors one can imagine who takes very good care of both the service users and volunteers.

4. How have you used the skills that you have learnt?

Adopting new ways of communication, compassionate truth-telling, reading between the lines, being observant to non-verbal clues, being considerate of the someone’s needs, but always seeing the person behind their diagnosis.

Also, while helping Age UK Camden as a volunteer, I became aware of their presence in the community and all the different ways in which they and their partners support older people in the borough of Camden. Combined with my previous experience, these new skills and knowledge got me a paid position as a Dementia Wellbeing Worker at Age UK Camden.

6. What would you say to someone who is considering volunteering for the role of Dementia Befriender?

While you hear their incredible stories and reflections and share some laughs and experiences with the person you will be visiting once matched, remember that all this is for them and about them. They should be the centre of this relationship.

You are allowed to their world. Be a pleasant guest and soon you will see how much of a difference your visits can make in their life. These are precious fulfilling moments.


Interested about volunteering with Age UK Camden?

We have a role to suit everyone, whether you would like to do it in person or in the comfort of your own home.