A CUMBRIAN nursing student has now trained more than 300 dementia friends as part of her mission to improve care.

Leanne Story, 24, wants people to see past the illness to the person, who just happens to be living with dementia.

The University of Cumbria student said it was her background as a care worker that inspired her to raise awareness.

"I've done home care for six years. We were going into people's houses but nobody was singing from the same hymn sheet. Everyone seemed to have a different understanding of dementia," she said.

Leanne noticed that was the same for students and more experienced staff, as well as those in the wider community.

That's when she decided to work with the Alzheimer's Society to train up dementia friends across the county.

"I just wanted everyone to have that same level of awareness, so they could support the person better," she said.

"The training makes people think more about dementia, and drives home the message that there's more to the person.

"These are people with life experience, long before the illness. They might have fought in a war or done something really significant in their life. It's about seeing that person first."

To coincide with National Dementia Action Week, Leanne organised a dementia conference at the university.

It featured practitioners and volunteers who support people with dementia, as well as patients living with the condition. The event was attended by more than 80 nursing students.

Leanne, a third year student, said understanding the condition makes it far easier to connect with challenging patients.

And she said she is keen to make sure that all practitioners have the training, not just those on specialist wards.

"We need to bridge the gap between physical and mental health. I did an essay on dementia as part of my course. One statistic I found was that one quarter of all hospital beds are occupied by someone with dementia, so it's nurses on all wards that are caring for them.

"Imagine waking up and not knowing where you are. A lot of dementia patients are used to being at home.

"They are quite happy and can live quite well, but if they come into hospital it can be very unsettling. You are in new surroundings with new noises.

"It's about finding the time to get to know the person.

"I looked after a gentleman who was always trying to get off the ward.

"It turned out he was actually a doctor when he was younger, so I gave him his own notes and let him tell me what to do.

"Suddenly he had that purpose and was far happier on the ward," explained Leanne.

Prior to the conference, she had trained 279 dementia friends, and the event has taken that total to well over 300.

The Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme is the biggest ever initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia.

Being a dementia friend is learning about the small ways someone can make a difference to the lives of those living with dementia.

The conference took place at the University of Cumbria’s Fusehill Street campus in Carlisle.

Once she finishes her course, Leanne will be starting a job at the Carlton Clinic in the city in September.

The role was especially created for her because of her experience in and passion for dementia care, and bridges both adult and mental health nursing fields.


A series of events have been taking place across Cumbria to support National Dementia Action Week.

The theme of this year’s week, which ends tomorrow and is supported by the Alzheimer’s Society, is ‘united against dementia’.

Among those taking part has been the University Hospitals of Morecambe bay NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Furness General in Barrow.

Proceeds from its fundraising events will go to Bay Hospitals Charity dementia campaign, which launched this week.

Dementia is a syndrome associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning.

This may include problems with memory loss, thinking speed, mental sharpness and quickness and language.

There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to more than one million by 2025.

Events to mark the action week included a tombola at the Tesco Extra store in Barrow on Monday, and a cup cake day at Furness General Hospital on Thursday.

There was also a dementia roadshow and afternoon tea at Barrow Library in aid of Dementia UK.

Dianne Smith, dementia matron at UHMBT, said: “We are pleased to have had an action-packed week for dementia, involving community and voluntary sector services to support the roadshows."

She added that the money raised by the trust will focus on improving the lives of people across the bay with dementia.

Staff and people in the wider community are still being encouraged to host vintage afternoon tea parties with family, friends, neighbours and colleagues in aid of the project.

Bay Hospitals Charity is a registered charity set up to hold and manage charitable money given to UHMBT’s hospitals.

If you want to host a vintage tea party email charity@mbht.nhs.uk.


Being a dementia friend - the five key messages

1. Dementia is not just a part of aging

2. Dementia is caused by a disease of the brain

3. Dementia is not just about losing your memory

4. It's still possible to live well with dementia

5. There is much more to the person than dementia