A nurse at the Countess of Chester Hospital has got 6,000 friends and is celebrating.
Memory nurse Andy Tysoe started ‘DementiaDO… the basics’ three years ago to encourage society to think differently and remove some of the misunderstandings about the brain disease. The project is based on the principles of the Dementia Friends initiative launched by the Alzheimer’s Society in 2013.
His short course gives an insight into what life is like with dementia through the stories and experiences of real people.
He said: “Nobody would dream of telling someone in a wheelchair to go for a run, but that kind of consideration isn’t always there for people living with dementia.
“DementiaDO is about challenging the stigma associated with dementia, highlighting how we need to help those with the disease in the same way we would for others with physical disabilities.”
NHS chief executive Simon Stevens attended one of his sessions, while Cheshire West and Chester Council fostered a partnership with him to take DementiaDO beyond the hospital’s walls.
Andy has visited Downing Street, the Irish Houses of Parliament and hosted sessions for everyone from police officers to schoolchildren, but what he treasures most are the good friends he has made along the way.
This is why he invited Tommy Dunne BEM, who has Alzheimer’s disease, to be his 6,000th Dementia Friend this week at the Countess.
Tommy, from Liverpool, is a regular feature at conferences and events about dementia, where he happily talks candidly about what it is like to live with the disease.
“When you’re diagnosed with dementia you get a superpower as well – invisibility,” Tommy said.
“At conferences and sessions like this it’s a rush of adrenaline when you know you’re going to talk to people who want to listen.”
Andy met Tommy four years ago and his story has always been part of the DementiaDO course, but this was the first time he had attended a session in person – and it was the first time he had received any formal education about dementia.
“It’s just unbelievable that one person has got the dedication and the enthusiasm to keep going like Andy has,” Tommy added.
“Talking about dementia all the time must be hard but he doesn’t get fed up, if anything he’s got more enthusiasm now than ever. It’s great to have people like Andy out there fighting for us to be heard.”
Deputy director of nursing Sian Williams said: “We are immensely proud of Andy at the Countess. His knowledge, expertise and personality have made a huge difference in helping more people to understand dementia.
“In many ways his extreme dedication and desire to go beyond the call of duty sums up what it means to be a nurse. Creating 6,000 Dementia Friends is an incredible achievement and I know he won’t stop there.”