My name is Sue Acton and I am a Dementia Navigator working in North Warwickshire.
It’s 9am and I’m heading off to my first client visit of the day. My patch is quite large and a bit of a distance from my home – I cover all of North Warwickshire, including Nuneaton, but live in Leamington Spa – and I need to be in Atherstone for 10am. My briefcase is loaded up with client notes and lots of brochures and factsheets. As well as Alzheimer’s Society material I like to take along relevant information from other organisations such as Age UK and Guideposts Trust, plus details of local dementia services such as a Carer’s Café run by a local GP practice.
My first clients are long standing service users, a couple in their 80s called Mary and Fred. I chat with both Mary and Fred for a while, and then with just Mary. Fred, who cares full time for Mary, takes the opportunity to relax for an hour on his own, knowing Mary is safe – even a short break like this can make all the difference. Mary and I talk about her children and her time as a wartime evacuee, but after a while she becomes emotional – she is terrified of ‘going mad’ and being ‘put away’. Despite the difficulties, it’s clear there is a lot of love between her and Fred. I agree a date for another visit and ask Fred to keep me posted on his Community Care Assessment – I’m concerned that Fred needs more support in his role as carer.
It’s now approaching lunchtime and I have an hour before my next visit, and so I grab a sandwich and coffee at a nearby garden centre. I write up my notes – having an iPad makes it so much easier to keep on top of things when I’m out all day – and also call my boss to discuss a couple of things, including my taking part in a post diagnostic support group set up by the Memory Service team in Nuneaton.
At 1pm it’s time for my second home visit of the day in Coleshill – a new client referred to us by one of our volunteers. Joan cares full time for Roger, and is finding things extremely tough. I simply listen for a while as Joan tells me her story, something that a lot of people want to do at the first meeting. As well as dementia, Roger has a number of physical problems that are in many ways harder to manage, and mean Joan cannot leave the house for more than an hour. I learn that Roger served in the army, and so I agree to look into services provided by The Royal British Legion which may be of use. I also encourage Joan to approach social services for further support. I leave feeling I haven’t been of much use, at least for now.
Today is slightly unusual in that I have a third visit late afternoon – I am meeting Andrew and his son Liam to discuss his wife Kate’s recent diagnosis. Kate and Andrew are relatively young and Andrew still works full time, hence the later than usual meeting. We are getting together in a café in Nuneaton as Andrew feels it would be helpful for him to be able to talk freely.
Again I have an hour before the meeting and so I fire up the iPad – I want to research Roger’s medical condition as it’s not something I have heard of before. I also catch up with some emails and remind myself of Kate and Andrew’s details, as well as adding them to the list of younger clients I am compiling – as a Navigator team we are looking at how we can meet the needs of younger people with dementia and will be inviting them to a meeting to get their views.
At 4pm I track down Andrew and Liam in the café, after the inevitable embarrassment of approaching the wrong people first. We have a long chat covering a whole range of topics, from the genetics of Alzheimer’s to Kate’s symptoms, to the practicalities of Andrew sorting out Power of Attorney to enable him to make decisions for Kate when she is no longer able to do so. I agree to speak to a colleague at Guideposts with whom Andrew has already spoken, and to send some information about our CRISP programme. I also provide various factsheets as well as details of support groups in the area. We will meet again next month.
It’s been a long day, and I head home. Tomorrow I’ll be in the Leamington office all day, writing up the rest of my notes and following up agreed actions. Although this isn’t the easiest job at times and I find it tough when I can’t ‘fix’ things for people, equally I absolutely love it – as well as the satisfaction of helping others, I love meeting such a variety of people and the fact no two days are the same.
To find out more about Warwickshire’s Dementia Navigators’ service please contact Alzheimer’s Society Warwickshire on 01926 888 899 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
(The photographs used on this website are for illustrative purposes only)