Volunteers needed to go Side by Side hospital patients with dementia

Local people are being invited to volunteer for a new pilot service to go Side by Side with people with dementia in Antrim Area Hospital. (Submitted Picture).
Local people are being invited to volunteer for a new pilot service to go Side by Side with people with dementia in Antrim Area Hospital. (Submitted Picture).

Local people are being invited to volunteer for a new pilot service in Antrim Area hospital to help people with dementia to keep doing the things they love while they are on a ward.

Whether it’s a game of cards, a sing along, listening to music or just having a good chat, you can help by supporting Side by Side - a free service from Alzheimer’s Society that provides one-to one support, making it easier for people with dementia, who might sometimes feel isolated during their stay in hospital.

Side by Side will enable a person with dementia take part in social and recreational activities on the ward or keep someone connected to the things they love – such as listening to music, simply enjoying a good conversation or taking part in their favourite group activities – while

they are in hospital.

A survey by Alzheimer’s Society found 40 per cent of people with dementia in Wales, England and Northern Ireland, have felt lonely recently. There is strong evidence that life satisfaction in general for older people is positively correlated with levels of activity.

Social activity and social support are thought to be directly related to better physical and cognitive function and help slow down the rate of decline.

Aisleen Hamill, Co-ordinator of the charity’s ‘Side by Side’ service in East Antrim, said: “Alzheimer’s Society is extending the reach of the East Antrim service to offer this new and exciting pilot service in Antrim Area hospital. The service will focus on enabling people with

dementia to lead more fulfilling lives and to continue to take part in the activities that they have always enjoyed or try new ones during their stay in hospital.”

There are currently four Side by Side service areas in Northern Ireland: East Antrim, Mid Ulster; Newry, Mourne, Craigavon and Banbridge; and Belfast.

Alzheimer’s Society needs more volunteers to enable people with dementia to stay connected and help to reduce feelings of loneliness that may be felt after a diagnosis.

“Hospital can be a very lonely experience, and can be very disorienting for a person with dementia. Side by Side volunteers can help reduce isolation by enabling a person with dementia to take part in activities and providing social interaction whilst they are in hospital. It can make all the difference to a person whether they are in hospital for a long time or a short stay,” Aisleen said.

“Volunteers are crucial to the success of this service and can range from providing support once a week to once a fortnight or once a month at a time that suits the volunteer,” she said.

If you are interested in becoming a Side by Side volunteer, please contact Aisleen Hamill on 02893 362940 or aisleen.hamill@alzheimers.org.uk for more details. Training will be provided so that volunteers are confident about carrying out the role. Volunteering provides a great opportunity to learn new skills, share your hobby with others and enhance your CV in addition to supporting a person to live more independently with dementia.