Trio volunteer to stand ‘Side by Side’ people with dementia

Larne women Liz Kellett, Ruth Campbell and Yvonne Hirst volunteer Side by Side people with dementia.
Larne women Liz Kellett, Ruth Campbell and Yvonne Hirst volunteer Side by Side people with dementia.

Three East Antrim women are volunteering to stand ‘Side by Side’ people with dementia, to help them do the things they have always enjoyed.

Larne residents, Ruth Campbell, Yvonne Hirst and Liz Kellett were among the first people in the UK to sign up for Side by Side, a service run by Alzheimer’s Society, where volunteers help a person with dementia to continue or rediscover hobbies or activities they love.

A former nurse, Ruth has been volunteering with Alzheimer’s Society for more than five years since her husband Derek died from vascular dementia, and was one of the first volunteers to join the pilot of Side by Side.

Yvonne volunteered with Side by Side about two years ago, after the death of her parents and is pleased to use the skills she developed caring for her father for 10 years.

Liz volunteered to help Side by Side’s East Antrim Manager Aisleen Hamill in the Kilroot Business Park office after her mother, who had Alzheimer’s disease, passed away.

Ruth takes a man with vascular dementia out for a few hours each week, Yvonne visits a woman in a nursing home, and Liz provides vital office assistance. Each of them enjoys the role so much they are urging others in East Antrim to volunteer too.

Alzheimer’s Society set up its innovative Side by Side service in a bid to reconnect people with dementia with their communities and favourite pastimes and uses a new approach to volunteering. It has been so popular that the charity is urgently calling on volunteers to come forward to support the people with dementia currently waiting to be paired up.

From joining a local club, spending time reminiscing, or just going for a stroll in the park, this innovative service pairs people with dementia and volunteers with shared interests. Piloted since 2014, Side by Side, which is supported by People’s Postcode Lottery, now has a waiting list of people in East Antrim to be paired up.

Alzheimer’s Society Side by Side Manager, Aisleen Hamill said: “It is estimated that there are more than 300 people living with dementia in Larne, more than 400 in Carrickfergus and nearly 900 in Newtonabbey, and that is expected to rise in the coming years. We want to ensure that every person with dementia in East Antrim has the opportunity to access Side by Side. We need more volunteers to enable people with dementia to stay connected and help to reduce feelings of loneliness that may be felt after a diagnosis.” If you are interested in becoming a Side by Side volunteer, contact Aisleen Hamill on 93362940 or aisleen.hamill@alzheimers.org.uk for more details. Training will be provided.