Alzheimer’s Society awards inspirational Barbara
An Amble woman has won a prestigious volunteering award from the Alzheimer’s Society for her inspirational work for the charity.
Barbara Dow was spurred on to make a difference after being left unhappy with the care her husband, who had Alzheimer’s disease, received during the last months of his life.
In recognition of her efforts, she travelled to the House of Lords on Tuesday 6 November, where she was presented with a William Brooks Award by Alzheimer’s Society supporter, Sir Michael Parkinson.
“I’ve never done anything like this before, but when you care you get on with it”, she told The Ambler.
“Going to the Houses of Parliament to receive the award was lovely. The place itself is awe inspiring. I thought to myself ‘What am I doing here?’ But Michael Parkinson was lovely – quite down to earth. He is aware of the problems and has worked for the Alzheimer’s Society. He is very sympathetic and cared about those he was meeting.”
The William Brooks Awards are presented annually to exceptional Alzheimer’s Society volunteers. Winners are nominated by fellow volunteers, staff or members of the public. Barbara has been an Alzheimer’s Society volunteer for five years. She originally became involved following the loss of her husband, Al, a former RAF pilot.
She was concerned and affected by the care that he received in a care home and in hospital, and joined the Acute Care Working Group, which produced the leaflet ‘This is me’ that is intended to provide professionals with information about the person to enhance the care and support given whilst in an unfamiliar environment such as hospital, after a report found huge variations in the quality of care for people with dementia.
Following a complaint Barbara made about the care her husband received in hospital, she was asked to write about their experiences following his diagnosis. This resulted in a booklet called ‘Al’s Story’, which forms the basis for Barbara’s talks with health professionals. She has been invited to speak at conferences, to doctors and consultants, and to nurses in their final year of training.
Barbara is one of seven individuals across the country to be selected for a William Brooks award. She said “I felt really shocked when first I heard I was to be honoured by the Alzheimer’s Society, but it’s a wonderful honour. Now I also feel very proud, but it is also a reflection of the hard work done by the staff at the Alzheimer’s Society’s Morpeth office. I just enjoy trying to make a difference. I’m reasonably fit, so I will only put my feet up when all the nurses and doctors and people generally know more about the illness itself, and people with dementia are treated with kindness and generosity wherever the go. Just because someone does not remember simple things that does not mean they shouldn’t be treated with dignity or respect.
“If hospital staff know someone’s background and their personality then they will be better equipped to help them. You have to see the person before the illness; they really have to know the person as well as what the illness means.”
Barbara was nominated by Susan Small, a dementia support worker who is based at the Alzheimer’s Society’s Morpeth office.
Susan said, “I admire Barbara’s energy and determination and her absolute commitment to make a difference for people with dementia and for their carers. She is an inspiration. Sadly, the final months of Al’s life were made very difficult because of the care he received, and it is this that has driven Barbara to support the Alzheimer’s Society and to try to make a difference.
“Barbara is determined to ensure people with dementia and their carers receive the best possible care, support and information. She works tirelessly to this end, challenging where necessary, but always in a constructive manner and always respecting the views and opinions of others.
“Barbara is a caring and compassionate person. She always shows understanding when talking with people with dementia and their carers, and her positive nature and approach to life is of great help to people who are facing the dementia journey”.