Dementia Action Week 2019: The importance of becoming a Dementia Friend

Sally Nicholson, Riverside’s Head of Operations, explains why she became a Dementia Friend when her grandmother, Dorothy, was diagnosed in 2007 and how easy it is to become one.

Sally Nicholson, Head of Operations
Sally Nicholson, Head of Operations


I started becoming more aware of Dementia personally when my grandma was diagnosed in 2007. I remember the date as it was the month that my first son was born. It quickly eroded my grandma’s mind, and we lost her in 2008. I don’t remember the dementia I choose to remember the vibrant and vivacious woman.

Throughout my career in social housing, I have worked with lots of different customer groups, some of my highlights working in Riverside has being part of a team that develops and builds new services.   It has been an eye opener delivering services with dementia in mind, from the interior design through to memory corners and innovative garden designs that allow a figure of 8 arrangement to bring people round full circle. Services don’t always have to be new and shiny to be dementia friendly, creating a relaxing environment with good lighting can make a huge difference to keeping people independent at home for longer.

Grandmother of Sally Nicholson, Head of Operations

I decided to become a Dementia Friend a couple of years ago, through the Alzheimer’s Society, its really easy to do and I would urge you to get involved and sign up throughout Dementia Awareness week, you can also ask your family and friends and children to get involved.

There are around 5% of the 800,000 people living with dementia that are diagnosed with working age dementia or known as early onset dementia, diagnosis can occur from the age of 30 up to 65. It’s important that we create dementia friendly environments and supportive atmospheres within the workplace.

Dementia awareness

Dementia is caused by a number of diseases that affect the brain. The most common is Alzheimer’s but diseases also include vascular dementia.

Different types of dementia affect the brain at different rates and in different ways, but other things like someone’s personal circumstances, the people around them and the environment in which they live, will affect their experience of dementia. Dementia progresses in a way that is unique to each individual.

The word ‘dementia’ describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. These changes are often small to start with, but for someone with dementia they have become severe enough to affect daily life. A person with dementia may also experience changes in their mood or behaviour. 

It is true that more people over 65 have dementia but it is not exclusively an older person’s disease; younger people get dementia too.

Sally Nicholson, Head of Operations, favourite photograph of her gramdmother when she was 15.
Dorothy aged 15.


Become a Dementia Friend

Being a Dementia Friend simply means learning more about dementia, putting yourself in the shoes of someone living with the condition, and turning you understanding into action. From visiting someone you know with dementia to being more patient in a shop queue, every action counts. Become a Dementia Friend by choosing one of the options below.

You can become a Dementia Friend by watching an online video where you will meet Teresa, Emma and Alex who are living with dementia and learn more about what it is like to live with the condition

Attend an Information Session
Information Sessions are run by Dementia Friends Champions to help you understand what it’s like to live with dementia and the actions you can take. Search for your nearest Information Session.