Theresa Walsh is part-time support worker for younger people with dementia at an Alzheimer’s Society day centre in Brighton.
Job description: I organise art projects for our service users and do general support work.
Skills/qualifications needed: Empathy. Listening skills. Sense of humour.
What’s your job like?
The Alzheimer’s Society in Brighton runs a club two days a week for people with dementia, aged from 30 to 60.
My job is challenging and fun. I do this for two days, the rest of the week I make my living as an artist, and I’m also a support worker at a youth project. I used to be a nurse.
My days with the Alzheimer’s Society start by picking up club members from their homes and driving them in to the centre which is wonderful, clean and recently refurbed. We have a waiting list – there should be more places like this.
We meet at 11am and start off by sitting in a circle. Club members talk over concerns and share news. As well as art, the day’s activities might include exercise, a quiz, or relaxation. We often walk to the sea, which is close.
The nature of the club is about trying to help service users enjoy the moment. When they are sad, laughter can help. Art projects I organise range from pottery and painting with watercolours to making masks. We do abstract and contemporary work. Pieces produced are exciting and different, not run of the mill. Recently we held an exhibition in a local church, which was well attended.
Art is popular. When staff ask our members what we should do, the answer is often art. Members can express themselves through art and release emotional stress.
We have a high staff ratio: one member of staff for every two or three service users. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, but there are many rarer diseases and syndromes that can lead to dementia.
Some of are members have head injuries, others are affected by stroke. We have people with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
But I should emphasise dementia is only a small part of each member’s personality.
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