This year’s Dementia Awareness Week, 15 – 21 May, encourages people who are worried about dementia to confront their worries. Dementia can be scary and many people don’t know where to turn, but there are lots of ways to get help.
The Leeds Memory Support Worker service is a new and ground-breaking development based on person-centred care, commissioned by Leeds Clinical Commissioning Groups and delivered by a partnership between the Alzheimer’s Society and Leeds and York Partnership (NHS) Foundation Trust which started in October 2015.
Find out more about what Memory Support Workers do and the support they give to people living with dementia. Life doesn’t end when dementia begins.
What is the service?
There are 14 Memory Support workers (with one job share) in Leeds – people from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences. The team works alongside Leeds Community Health Care Trust, the Memory Service (LYPFT) and GPs and they work with people who have a diagnosis of dementia or show signs that may indicate dementia.
An MSW (Memory Support Worker) can become involved before the formal diagnosis has been given or when a person is in denial about their condition and also offer support to the families and carers involved as well. People are referred by GPs, Integrated Neighbourhood teams, the Alzheimer’s Society, and third sector groups.
A referral to an MSW is made at the appropriate time for the person with dementia. They provide essential information and start conversations to identify the individual needs of each person and carer such as social isolation, identification of appropriate services and will remain a named point of contact for the person with memory problems. This also includes providing and identifying support for people and families when there are difficulties accepting symptoms or seeking/accepting diagnosis.
Two Memory Support Workers tell us more about what the job means to them.
Hannah Miller was a self-employed businesswoman who took a change of direction and began working as care worker in a local care home. This experience led her to a Dementia Studies degree course although still working as a healthcare assistant on a dementia assessment ward with the NHS. She is now the Memory Support Worker in Pudsey.
“Initially I wondered how rewarding I would find this role, would I miss having opportunities to make a difference to people’s lives on a daily basis, as I had previously? How wrong I was. Being able to point people towards social engagement activities and practical support has been extremely rewarding. One example is when I introduced a lady, who had not been involved in any social activities for some time, to a local dementia cafe. When she got there several others were dancing along to music, I invited her to dance, a little tentatively, she agreed, even though we danced for only half a song, because of her legs, the smile on her face and the joy she felt from that short dance was truly wonderful.
I have been thanked many times and told how much of a difference the service has made to their lives. Another told me they “had no idea all these activities existed until they were involved with the Memory Support Worker service”. It has been a similar story working with the Pudsey integrated neighbourhood team and GPs.”
Another member of the MSW team is Jason Moriarty who had quite a different path from outside the health and social service sector, to becoming a Memory Support worker.
“For some time I had wanted to work in a role to help people who have cognitive impairment and try to make a real difference to their lives. I had lots of voluntary experience working with people who had these problems and a Masters in Clinical Neuroscience. But I hadn’t worked with people living with dementia which had affected me personally.
Working within the Integrated Neighbourhood Team for LCH and having colleagues based elsewhere took a while to get used to but there are benefits in working with so many different professionals and finding out how they work. It also benefits the people with dementia that I work with too.
This job is honestly one of the most satisfying things I’ve done. There are lots of little things that make it so worthwhile. I can work towards what the person with dementia wants rather than telling them what I think, although my academic knowledge is still useful.”
But what does one of the MSW client’s think?
“My support worker has seemingly put herself out to help me, and is always able to help and support. She is the lighthouse in the stormy sea”
If you would like an informal chat or are worried about memory problems there are several activities taking place during this week.
If you, or someone you know, is worried about memory problems the Memory Support team can help email firstname.lastname@example.org or there are Memory Drop-In clinics at the Central Library 10.30-12.30 on the first Wednesday of the month.