Two Morpeth residents have spoken of how much they enjoy their volunteer role as a charity appeals for more men to get involved.
The Alzheimer’s Society in Northumberland has been running the popular befriending service for two years, but it has become a victim of its own success.
The scheme sees men living with dementia ‘matched’ with volunteers who spend quality time with them. As well as giving them a break from their routine, it offers respite to carers.
At the moment, there are quite a few men on its waiting list who would like to have the support and company of a male volunteer.
Brian Dobinson, 72, began volunteering around 18 months ago after reading an Alzheimer’s Society leaflet at his GP surgery and Bob Cadman got involved after a chance meeting with Brian when he was out with one of his ‘clients’.
Bob, 66, said: “Brian and I both ran businesses from Wansbeck Business Centre so when I saw him one day in Morpeth we stopped for a chat.
“He explained that the person he was with had dementia and that he was his befriending volunteer.
“It sounded fascinating and I thought to myself ‘I can do that’, so I enquired about it the very next day.”
Both men say they’ve never looked back and thoroughly enjoy the time they spend with clients.
Brian, who ran a company specialising in removable paint, said: “I have a man I take out on Tuesdays and another who I see on Fridays.
“One of them used to sail yachts so we love visiting the cafe at the Maritime Centre in Newbiggin.
“The other man is very arty, so we go to places like the Laing Gallery or the Hancock Museum in Newcastle. He’s so knowledgeable, I always come away feeling enlightened.
“I don’t look at either of them as people with dementia, I just think of them as pals I go out with, and I look forward to our outings every week.
“I don’t think of the role as being voluntary either. I feel a committed part of the team, which is largely down to the way the staff at the Alzheimer’s Society treat volunteers – they’re so supportive.”
The charity’s research shows that about 850,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia and there are about 4,850 people living with it in Northumberland.
Bob added: “My guy can be quite articulate, but doesn’t always remember what is said in our discussions.
“This doesn’t matter though. It’s really all about the moment and spending quality time with someone and changing their feelings for that day.
“The Alzheimer’s Society is very careful about pairing you up with the right person and there’s a thorough recruitment process that involves first-class training and an enhanced DBS check.”
Opportunities to befriend people with dementia are available in Morpeth and across south east Northumberland.
If you would like to help, call Alzheimer’s Society volunteering officer Suzanne Johnstone on 01670 813255 for more information.