Ken Clasper: Why I became a Dignity Champion

I originally got involved with the Alzheimer's Society a few years ago, where I worked as an Ambassador, and then got involved with the Department of Health.

My wife and I got involved with the National Dementia Strategy through the Society, and we were members of an Early Reference Group looking into early diagnosis and Intervention, and we are still actively involved with the strategy where possible.

I got involved as a Dignity Champion a few years ago, after listening to people discussing the problems associated with dementia, while I was at an event in Newcastle upon Tyne, and I was so fired up and annoyed by the lack of dignity and care, that I decided to do more, and help out where I could. During this time I have spent time trying to raise awareness about the lack of Dignity and Respect, when treating people who have this illness in care homes and General Practice.

During the last year I have spoken at events in North East Universities where people are trained to do social work, as I feel that it is very important to get in at an early stage and tell people how they should be treating people with dementia. I also feel that by spelling out guidelines of how we would like to be treated it is having an effect, as most people realise that we are not asking for the world but simply for things that most people take as normal.

I think that many people shudder when we tell them how we want to be treated, as they then realise that there is something fundamentally wrong with the training that many receive these days.

Two years ago, I spoke at the Launch of the Living Well with Dementia project, which was held at Middlesbrough, and after talking about Dignity and Respect, a few people came up and asked if they could use my script in their training at hospitals. This was something that I had not expected, but I did not have to think twice about it, as I felt that it was very important, to get in at an early stage.

Training people to understand the needs of those with this illness is not as easy as it looks, as there are well over 120 variations of dementia, and we are all different, so no two people have the same needs, but I have offered to go and speak to anyone who is training people, so that they will get a better understanding of what is needed, and how to treat people with dementia with the dignity and care they would expect from others.

As it was pointed out at one event, those with the illness are in a better position than GPs or consultants to tell others how we should be treated because we are going through it on a daily basis. Through the Department of Health, I have also become a Mentor on Horsesmouth, as another way of helping those in need, as I can help those who may have just been diagnosed and don't know where to go for help.

There are many roles that a person with Dementia can do if given the support and help, and being a Dignity Champion is one of those, and I do feel that I am helping many people to understand the needs of those with this illness. There are many more people out there like me so why not allow us to help you, and also help ourselves.

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