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Why a dementia befriending scheme could help YOU

Many people living with dementia feel lonely – and so do those who love and care for them. Find out what you can both do to ease isolation and loneliness and make life more enjoyable

Everyone needs a friend but a dementia diagnosis can, sadly, bring a stigma with it which may mean that old friends start slipping away. However, this doesn’t have to lead to social isolation In fact, if you take advantage of befriending schemes and support groups, you could both find yourselves forming new, long-lasting friendships.

Who are befrienders?

Befrienders are volunteers who’ve been trained in dementia and are genuinely interested in forming friendships with people who have the condition. Their interest often comes from personal experience – perhaps they’ve cared for a relative or friend with dementia in the past and have some understanding of the challenges it can bring. Befrienders are also able to provide companionship for carers who may be experiencing caregiver stress or depression and are in need of support themselves.

What do befrienders actually do?

• Befrienders are carefully matched to the people they befriend. They’ll usually start by going to meet the person in their own home and getting to know them. A lot depends on whether or not they both hit it off. If not, that’s fine – there’ll be no hard feelings – the befriending service will simply try to find someone more suitable.

• If they do hit it off, then the befriender will start visiting regularly (perhaps once a week). At first, visits might simply involve chatting over a cup of tea, looking at photographs or listening to music. As their friendship builds, visits might involve going shopping, playing golf together or going on outings to favourite places. Since befriending is person-centred care it’s usually left to the person with dementia to decide what will happen on each visit.

• Befriending schemes can bring far reaching benefits. A befriender can, for example, provide a great boost to confidence, self-esteem and independence. Befrienders can also help to ease boredom and loneliness and provide much needed stimulation.

How do we find a befriender?

Contact charities such as Age UK, the Royal Voluntary Service and the Alzheimer’s Society to find out about the dementia befriending schemes they run throughout the UK. Some NHS trusts also run befriending schemes for people with dementia and their carers – get more information at your local GP practice.

Support groups for carers

Caring for someone with dementia can be frustrating and stressful, but many carers find that simply meeting other people who are doing the same sort of job, sharing information, and realising they are not alone, can be very beneficial. There are hundreds of support groups nationwide offering social, practical and emotional support for the carers, family and friends of people with dementia. Support groups can meet face-to-face or online.

Good to know

• Numerous studies have found ‘statistically significant evidence’ that peer support groups can be a positive benefit for carers of people with dementia.
• For instant support, tips or advice and to chat to other carers, our Facebook Support Group can be accessed here.