It is a common misconception that Dementia only affects older people, and that nothing can be done when someone is diagnosed. There may be no cure at present, but getting the right treatment, care and support can help people with the illness live independently for longer and lead a fulfilling life. Understanding the condition is the first step.
Merseytravel, the Executive body who provide professional, strategic and operational transport advice and delivery to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, recently held a dementia awareness workshop at its headquarters in Liverpool.
The workshop was delivered by the Open University as part of a nationwide partnership programme with Unison. 15 people attended including Merseytravel staff, Unison members from the Environment Agency and some digital champions from the Unionlearn North West Delivering Assisted Lifestyles Living At Scale (DALLAS) Programme
Merseytravel’s Merseylearn project organised the day as part of its support to transport staff and Unionlearn.
Merseylearn Project Worker and Unison Union Learning Rep (ULR) Norman Hunter explained: “Understanding the issues around dementia is important to organisations such as Merseytravel. Our customer- facing staff undergo a range of training to equip them with the skills and knowledge required to support the traveling public and visitors. With more than 800,000 people in the UK diagnosed with dementia and 225,000 people developing dementia each year, our staff will increasingly come into contact with people with dementia and having an improved awareness will help us to offer the very best customer service.
Alongside supporting our customers we are also aware that with an increasingly ageing workforce, some of our staff may also develop the early stages of dementia and of course some may be carers for family members with dementia.”
Merseylearn Manager Andy Thornton continued:
“It is not just Merseytravel staff we support but also the wider transport sector. We are keen that front line transport staff working on buses, taxis, the railways, airport and visitor attractions gain a better understanding of all issues affecting their customers. A better understanding of how to support people affected by dementia will help everyone”
Anne-Marie Quibell, Unison Membership Officer with the Environment Agency who attended the workshop said: “I found it a very interesting and worthwhile day. We did not have the numbers of staff to run the workshop ourselves, so Steve Swift from Unison NW was able to put me in contact with Merseylearn and get 3 members on to the workshop. A good bit of union networking.”
Jimmy Hilton works as a Customer Service Officer with Merseytravel, a job that brings him into daily contact with the traveling public:
“I was struck by how young many of the people in the case studies were; it is not just an older person’s illness. Even after being diagnosed, because of the random nature of the memory loss many of those affected are confused, as they do not think they are ill. This type of training helps us to understand the symptoms and support our customers better.
If you’re worried that you, or someone close to you, may have dementia, it can be difficult to talk about. You may feel scared, confused or even ashamed. You may also be hoping that the problem will go away so you don’t have to deal with it. It won’t go away, chat to your doctor or a health professional. If you feel more comfortable, chat to one of your Union Reps, they will support you to get the help you need.