Son hails Dementia Friends project after heartache

A SCOTS bank worker who went through the heartache of seeing his mum go through the pain of dementia has spoken about the benefits of a programme run by Alzheimer Scotland '“ and is being supported by his work colleagues.

Neil with his sister at a Memory Walk this year. Picture: Contributed

Neil Cameron, 50, is one of 150 Sainsbury’s Bank workers who have become Dementia Friends through a partnership with the charity – and raised over £38,000 to help fund the charity’s vital support services for people living with the condition across Scotland.

The Dementia Friends initiative provides learning sessions to recognise the impact dementia has on individuals, families and communities and helps to improve the lives of those living with the condition.

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Neil, 50, a commercial manager with Travel Money at Sainsbury’s Bank, said: “My mother had dementia and was cared for by my dad at home. Having personal experience of a family member with dementia made the Dementia Friends programme even more significant for me.

“It has helped me to help others break down the ignorance surrounding living with dementia and build confidence in supporting those with the condition. ”

“She was initially aware that she was losing her memory and as a family we were keen to understand what was happening and what we could do to manage the situation and slow or ease the progress.

“She slowly became less able to do things that she had always done without thinking. Everything took longer and she became more frail – but always stayed ‘mum’ and was always calm and happy – her personality didn’t change.

“Living with her recalling old situations, people and mixed up scenarios was often tiring – you could see all this was also having a negative impact on my dad’s health.

“He used to say he dreaded the day she asked him, ‘who are you?’ – and then it happened. But we got to understand and manage the lapses in memory as they weren’t constant and would come and go.

“So it became the normal routine and you appreciated the times of coherent conversation all the more.

“Mum has since passed away after a fall. Being practical and positive it was the better outcome – she didn’t get any worse and we were able to still remember her more like the person she used to be.”

He added: “This partnership is important. Alzheimer Scotland provided support with people who would sit with mum a couple of days a week, in the afternoon, to allow dad time to himself to go bowling.

“Early on, both mum and dad went to support groups to understand what can be done to help the patient but also the carer.

“The partnership between Sainsbury’s Bank and Alzheimer Scotland has helped raise the awareness and profile across over 1,000 people in the office and wider with friends and family as we undertook various fund raising activities across the year. And the Dementia Friends Programme will create a lasting legacy for the partnership.

Anne McWhinnie, Dementia Friends Programme Manager from Alzheimer Scotland, said: “Small things can make a very big different to those living with dementia and by understanding those better, companies can make a vital difference when dealing with their customers.

“Our mission is to help make everyday life better for people living with dementia. Sainsbury’s colleagues now have more awareness and confidence to help those affected by dementia going forward.”