Thursday, 17 April 2014

Dementia Supportive Communities Tackling Stigma in Powys - Sometimes It's The Small Things That Can Really Change Our Lives

"I first came across Rhiannon last year.  She enticed me with her passion to go along to an event she had been instrumental in planning in June 2013.  I wasn't disappointed and the event in turn inspired me to write a blog; Unconventional Wisdom: Dementia and Mental Health - Uncomfortable Bedfellows?
Since then members of my team have followed the progress of the work and tried to do what we can to help.  Glynis, a member of our team, attended a Dementia themed event initiated by Dyfed-Powys Police in December 2013 and you can read about this in Dementia Champions.
So when Rhiannon contacted me this week asking whether I could use her latest article anywhere, I was delighted to be asked.  So thank you Rhiannon for providing the team with this our latest guest blog."

Working towards Brecon and Hay becoming Dementia Supportive Communities

Dementia Friends Champion Training, April 2014
In a bid to help end the stigma surrounding dementia, Alzheimer’s Society has launched the Dementia Friends programme in Wales.

Aimed at giving people a better understanding of dementia, and the small things they can do to make a difference, Brecon and Hay were two of the first towns in Wales to adopt the scheme.

“In Powys, there are around 2500 people living with some form of dementia and this number will only increase in the forthcoming years” said Rhiannon Davies, chair of the Brecon and Hay Dementia Supportive Community group.

“For many people, the battle is not just about getting a diagnosis and support from the health and social care system, but about the everyday things that you and I take for granted - going to the shops, getting money from the bank, visiting the library, taking public transport, participating in leisure activities and hobbies. All these are made more difficult by the stigma and fear attached to the condition. This often leads to people with dementia and their carers staying at home, becoming more isolated and lonely.

“This is where Dementia Friends comes in. With understanding, support and encouragement we can help people with dementia and their carers to remain part of the community, so they can continue to be valued customers, be more active in the local area and live better more fulfilled lives.”

A trained volunteer Dementia Friends Champion herself, Rhiannon is passionate about the initiative.

Brecon Llanfaes Girl Guides become Dementia Friends
“It’s about valuing and respecting the individual, seeing them for who they are rather than the condition they have. Getting the message out there that dementia is not just a part of the ageing process, and with the right support and understanding people with dementia, especially in the early stages, can live well is so important.

“We also need to recognise how challenging it can be for carers, and give them our support too.” she continued.

To-date a range of community associations, organizations and businesses have benefited from Dementia Friends sessions in Powys, with feedback being very positive. Over 250 people have chosen to become dementia friends, and made a commitment to turn their new-found understanding into action. Each session lasts about an hour.

Read more about Dementia Awareness Week May 18-24th 2014 here and the events happening across Powys.  You can also access a press release here.

For those interested in becoming a dementia friend or organising a Dementia Friends session or becoming a Dementia Friends Champion visit

Or contact Jean Nowell, Alzheimer’s Society dementia support worker Tel: 01874 712083

Or Rhiannon at Tel: 01874 676617
"Thanks Rhiannon and I hope this inspires others to support your work."

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Revving up Powys Info Engine

Claire Powell has been working for the past 11 months at PAVO as the Third Sector Broker and Info Engine Officer. Amongst many other things she has supported organisations in the mental health voluntary sector to get their details uploaded to Info Engine so that anyone with an interest can find out more and connect.

Naturally we wanted to find out more about someone with such a long job title! So we caught up with Claire at her PAVO base at Ddole Road in Llandrindod Wells to ask a few questions.

It sounds as if you wear two hats… tell us more about them.

Yes I wear two hats, often more than two and I am not even a ‘hat person’!

Wearing my Broker hat I work in the Comms Hub with Adult Social Services and health workers to raise awareness of all the voluntary services in Powys. Sometimes people reach crisis points in their lives because they are not getting the right support. My job is to make sure social workers, doctors and other professionals know about a variety of voluntary services so that every person has the opportunity to get the support they need. I spend a lot of time doing internet research and making phone calls to get the right support for each client.

I wear my Info Engine hat with geek glasses, I manage Info Engine which is an online directory of services, and my job is to make sure as many services are listed on the directory as possible and that people like yourselves use it to find out what’s happening in your area. A lot of the technical mumbo jumbo goes over my head but I am learning a lot at the same time and I get to go out and visit lots of groups to tell them about Info Engine! It’s the first directory of its kind in Powys and something I am very proud to be a part of.

What are the most challenging aspects of the role?

Currently I am the only Third Sector Broker in Powys so trying to be everywhere at once is difficult. I think the most challenging aspect of my role is changing a long standing culture with health and social care professionals. Until now they have managed using very few voluntary services, but due to the recent budget cuts they are having to rely more and more on external services which means that clients will have more choice in the services on offer.

Talk us through a typical enquiry coming through the Comms Hub

To give you an example, a recent call came in from family member calling in to Social Services asking for a social worker to visit their son who is in his mid 20s and has a physical disability. She was worried that he is becoming lonely and ‘depressed’. In this case the son wasn’t aware that this call was being made which happens quite often. We always explain that we could not refer him without his knowledge – this can be difficult for loved ones to understand but client choice is at the heart of everything we do.

I then sit with a duty social worker and the person who took the call and chat about what support we could offer. It was decided that this would not be a case for Social Services and I offered the caller a list of local activities, clubs and volunteering opportunities which could be suggested to the son. This is very much a case of preventing things getting worse for the son.

In another case I referred a lady to Hafal because she was struggling with her own health and was caring for her partner who had mental health issues. This was very successful and led to the prevention of a crisis situation for the couple.

We are often asked for hard copies of service directories. What does Info Engine offer that is better?

  • Info Engine is instant - information at the click of a button.
  • Services update their information regularly so unlike a printed directory the information remains fresh.
  • Info Engine is with you wherever you go – as long as you have a mobile, tablet or are near a computer with internet access you can use Info Engine.
  • If you want to know more about each service you can click on a link taking you straight to their website – Simples!
  • There are also new services popping up across the county which you would never discover thumbing through a printed directory.
  • And of course – Info Engine saves the planet – just think how many trees are chopped down to make a paper directory! 
People sometimes say they are suffering “information overload.” As a tool, how does Info Engine offer solutions to this situation?

You can carry out a really specific search such as ‘Hedgehog rescue 5 miles from Howey’ and it would only bring up a single entry rather than having to sift through every animal rescue centre in Powys! This is an odd example but someone did re-home a number of hedgehogs after discovering the Howey Hedgehog Rescue using Info Engine!

We also encourage all services registered to keep their information brief and to use straight forward language not jargon! The use of fancy, unnecessary language is a pet hate of mine.

What is the most valuable thing you have learnt since you started your new role?

Prevention is better than cure and services must work better together to help people get the support they need as early as possible!

What do you like to do in your own time, when you’re not working for PAVO?

I love walking my Springer Spaniel puppy Jack – although it’s usually him taking me for a walk! If I have had a difficult day at work I like to slump on the sofa and get lost in a Disney film.

Thank you so much Claire for talking to us! If you would like to find out more about Powys Info Engine and the work Claire does at the Comms Hub at Powys County Council you can email or tel: 01597 822191.

Have you tried using Info Engine yet? Let us know what you think by commenting below. If people do not have access to the internet and require information about mental health services and organisations we can do the search on Info Engine for them and still send out printed material - so everyone is catered for and we still save many many trees!