My View, Dr David Crichton: 10,000 ready to help dementia patients

Sharon Coe, from Askern, became Doncasters 10,000th Dementia Friend. She is pictured with Tom McKnight
Sharon Coe, from Askern, became Doncasters 10,000th Dementia Friend. She is pictured with Tom McKnight
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Yorkshire folk have a reputation for being friendly and caring and here in Doncaster our communities are full of people happy to lend a helping hand when it’s needed.

Looking out for each other and stepping in to help the vulnerable in our society when they need it is going to become more important in future, particularly with our growing elderly population.

Doncaster’s caring approach is no better illustrated than when it comes to dementia, as we work towards our ambition of becoming a dementia friendly borough.

It’s a continuous journey, but we recently passed a milestone when Sharon Coe, from Askern, became Doncaster’s 10,000th Dementia Friend. And she quickly put to use what she had learned.

Sharon, who works for voluntary sector support organisation CVS in Doncaster town centre, attended an hour-long Dementia Friends awareness session run by her colleague, Tom McKnight. Tom, who is also a Dementia Friends’ champion,told how ordinary people can help those who have the disease.

A Dementia Friend learns about what it’s like to live with dementia and turns that understanding into action. It could be helping someone who is struggling to count out the correct money at a supermarket checkout, or helping someone to find their way to where they want to be.

Shortly after attending the information session, Sharon was returning to work with some shopping. She saw an elderly man standing in the central refuge of the two crossings that span the dual carriageway near Doncaster Railway Station. He appeared confused and unsure which way to go and appeared to ask a couple of passers-by who carried on walking as they told him where to go.

He still appeared lost and asked another pedestrian for directions. That’s when Sharon’s training kicked in. She caught up with him and asked him if he was OK. He told her he was trying to find the bus station to catch his bus home. Sharon found out where he wanted to be and showed him to the bay in the bus station, where the grateful man gave her a hug and thanked her for helping him.

Sharon, who has elderly parents herself, is not sure she would have reacted in the same way had she not attended the information session. It made her more aware, gave her the knowledge to spot the potential tell-tale signs of dementia and the confidence to step in and offer to help.

Currently, nearly 2,600 Doncaster residents have been diagnosed with dementia, but for our population size we expect there to be a further 1,000 people who have the disease but have not yet been diagnosed.

Why not become a Dementia Friend and help us reach 20,000? Find out how by visiting Dementia Friends