CAMPAIGN: How the admiral nurse is dedicated to making Harrogate dementia-friendly

Dementia Forward admiral nurse Nicky Addison with the wellbeing cafe in Ripon. (S)
Dementia Forward admiral nurse Nicky Addison with the wellbeing cafe in Ripon. (S)

The Harrogate Advertiser continues its campaign to support making the Harrogate district dementia-friendly, to help those living with the disease. Reporter James Metcalf speaks to one person who is dedicated to the mission.

The role of the admiral nurse may not yet be widely acknowledged, but it is one that is becoming increasingly important to people living with dementia.

Dementia Forward admiral nurse Nicky Addison. (S)

Dementia Forward admiral nurse Nicky Addison. (S)

Offering key advice to all those affected by the disease, including families and carers, the admiral nurse is a registered mental health professional with experience of working in older people’s services.

One of only 120 in the UK, and even more of a rarity in the voluntary sector, Nicky Addison is admiral nurse with Dementia Forward, and she believes the campaign to make the Harrogate districtdementia-friendly will have an enormous impact, and not before time.

“A big part of what I do is support people to bring in additional help. It is a big step to have professional carers in your home, and a lot of people feel guilty that they are letting their relative down, so that creates a lot of turmoil,” she said.

“The dementia-friendly community campaign will help massively. At Dementia Forward we always talk about people with dementia and their family, their world shrinks when they get a diagnosis.

NADV 1409082AM1 Graham Cater with staff members. Graham Carter  of Cafe Culture with staff members Alexandra Rous, Hilary Harrison and Sarah Whitehead who took part in the educational programme to make Harrogate more dementia friendly. Picture : Adrian Murray.(1409082AM1)

NADV 1409082AM1 Graham Cater with staff members. Graham Carter of Cafe Culture with staff members Alexandra Rous, Hilary Harrison and Sarah Whitehead who took part in the educational programme to make Harrogate more dementia friendly. Picture : Adrian Murray.(1409082AM1)

“It is a daily struggle, but if they know they can go somewhere and not be embarrassed if they forget something or have to worry about making mistakes, that means their wellbeing will be maintained a lot longer.”

Nicky’s appointment in April 2013 made her one of the first admiral nurses put to work in the voluntary sector.

She is also the only admiral nurse in North Yorkshire, though Dementia UK are working to make sure there is one in every area.

Of the many people she has helped, several Dementia Forward service users came forward full of admiration for the work Nicky does.

Anne Kippax said: “Nicky has been invaluable in keeping me calm, grounded, and confident. I don’t think I could have got through the last few months without her.”

And Jeremy Banyard, who is a carer, said: “Our nurse is trying to bring the whole family together to bring understanding of what having someone with dementia means to them and to me as a carer.”

From advice on how to access care and help bringing in the professional assistance when it is needed, to a person to talk to either at home, in a cafe, or on the phone, Nicky is there for everyone in a family struggling to cope with a diagnosis of dementia, helping them develop a strategy to deal with any difficulties that might arise.

She said: “I am a dementia-specialist nurse, and the main emphasis of my role is supporting the families and carers of the person with dementia.

“I offer every kind of support for people, from talking to them because they can’t talk to their children because they want to protect them or their friends because they might not be close anymore, right through to psychological therapies if they are struggling to cope.

“The ultimate goal is for people to stay independent for as long as they can. And carers will benefit from that too because they won’t be worried about having so much to do, so it is about everybody. If everybody feels they are managing that bit longer, they might not access care as quickly as they would have before.”

Not only will this save people money in the long run, it will also give them back the ability to live their life as before in their community with the help of those around them.

The shops, hotels, cafes, and businesses pledging to make small changes to their day-to-day practice as part of the campaign to make Harrogate into one of the most dementia-friendly communities will provide that support.

From being afraid to leave the house in case they get lost to feeling embarrassed of forgetting something, the education scheme that is part of the project from Dementia Forward means there are more safe places and people who know what to do in such a situation.

This will also be a comfort to the dedicated people caring for their loved ones with dementia, and Nicky is in full support of the campaign.

“When people aren’t able to do the things they want to do they get frustrated and angry and carers give up,” she said. “If it becomes a problem when someone gets lost when they leave the house you are looking at full time care, but with the dementia-friendly communities project they can take that risk and go out and know they’ll get help if they need it. Sometimes it just takes a couple of visits from me to help, and if they are able to go to the shops like they used to that will make a massive difference.”

Attend the launch event at Holiday Inn, Harrogate on September 22, and sign up for the education programme.

To access Nicky’s support or in an emergency, contact Dementia Forward on their helpline 01765 601224.

One business going to great lengths to help make Harrogate dementia-friendly is Cafe Culture on Leeds Road.

As one of the seven to take part in the pilot education scheme from Dementia Forward, Cafe Culture is the first of the frontrunning cohort to have formed an action plan on how the cafe can be more dementia-friendly.

Following the training, Cafe Culture is now aware of what needs to be done in the community to provide some essential support, and is implementing the action plan to do its bit.

Manager Graham Carter said: “We think it’s great because we get quite a few people in with dementia and anything that would make us more receptive to their needs would be good for us so we were very up for it.

“Our staff and people in my family have had experience of dementia, so it is very close to our hearts.

“We all sat down and learnt about opening our eyes to the fact that it is not just people forgetting things, it is actually a disease, and that was quite an eye-opener.

“It makes you more aware that for people who have dementia it is something serious.”

Now Graham and his staff are displaying notices and have information available for people with dementia on their website and around the cafe.

The cafe will also provide training for staff by working with Dementia Forward to increase their knowledge and understanding.

And though regularly busy, staff have said setting aside time to speak with customers with dementia is an important step in the campaign to make Harrogate dementia-friendly.

“To gain that awareness just helps in the day to day running of the cafe, so if we do get someone in with dementia we are more understanding and realise that if they forget something it’s okay,” Graham said.

“We get quite a few people who are carers of people with dementia, and they can just relax in the cafe as a place to chill out and chat to the staff because they know what they are talking about.

“It would be nice if that could go out across cafes in Harrogate. You can’t be hospitals for people, but just having an awareness that it isn’t easy for everybody would be great step forward.”

Are you or your business getting involved in the campaign? Are you affected by dementia and do you welcome this step forward in the Harrogate district?

Share your stories and get in touch: email or call 01423 707526

As part of the campaign, the Harrogate Advertiser Series is doing its bit to become dementia-friendly this week.

The team from Dementia Forward will be at the Harrogate Advertiser offices today (Thursday, September 11), helping the team understand what it means to have dementia and what we can all do to help.

Reporter James Metcalf said: “We are following in the footsteps of the businesses that took part in the pilot scheme and will join the ranks of businesses and groups across the district set to make the pledge to become dementia-friendly.

“After we have completed the training we will form an action plan, stating how we can remain dementia-friendly and what positive effect this will have.”

See next week’s newspaper to see our coverage of the training.