I am the Team Leader with Age NI's innovative programme, My Life My Way, which is supported by the Big Lottery Fund's Reaching Out: Connecting Older People programme, and delivered in the Belfast and Northern Health and Social Care Trust areas. I have 29 years nursing experience specialising in dementia across a range of roles in hospital; nursing home and day care management.
Navigating the process... knowing what to do next... who to contact... knowing what services are available... getting vital information and support to manage their condition and continue to live a fulfilled life and as normalised as possible. These are the challenges that many people living with dementia face. As well as information and advice, continuous support for the person and the carers is critical.
My Life My Way volunteers provide ongoing support to help empower people to make life choices, build confidence and link them into support networks. All volunteers are provided with appropriate training to support their role: confidentiality; record-keeping; dealing with vulnerable adults, professional boundaries reminiscence, life-story training and building dementia friendly communities.
Our project matches older people with volunteers who can help them make little changes that often make a huge difference in their lives. Volunteers give a few hours each week, and it’s a really flexible role, built around the needs of the older person and their carers. A diagnosis of dementia is stressful for anyone especially if they are already feeling lonely and isolated.
When older people go through care services, they often lose important social and emotional connections and their confidence is knocked. Our experience shows that older people with dementia are poorly supported as they face these major life changes. It’s vital that a person’s dignity and voice is at the centre of decision-making regarding what services he or she receives. That’s why My Life My Way is so important – our volunteers help people living with dementia to have a voice.