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February Cuimhne Champions blog

A successful Cuimhne Champions training day took place at Durning Hall, East London on 15 February looking at Understanding Memory Loss and Dementia.

This training day was coordinated by Irish in Britain Cuimhne Champion Chris O’Reilly, treasurer of East London Irish Pensioner’s Forum and a carer for two people with memory loss. Chris attended training delivered by Irish in Britain for East London Irish Pensioners Forum (ELIPF) back in September 2017 and was inspired to take further action.

Training participants around the tableIn consultation with the group and together with John O’Connor (Chair of ELIPF) Chris took the initiative to apply to Irish in Britain for a Cuimhne treasure chest to take forward actions to better support and include people living with memory loss, their family members and carers into community.  

This volunteer–led group identified a need for further awareness raising about dementia and training for volunteers, community members and carers and brought together 22 people for a special training day, which was facilitated by Dr Mary Tilki, supported by Cuimhne Champions Coordinator Zibiah Loakthar and Cuimhne Champion Caroline Hyland.

Chris has written to us, “I wish to thank you for funding the loss of memory and dementia  course …every  person enjoyed it and I was delighted with the turn out … Mary has a great way of putting the people in a relaxed manner and talk to them in lay persons’ language. How does she remember everything?!”

People commented that it was a “wonderful day” …”every part was enjoyable from start to finish.”

“I enjoyed listening to all the views” and “hearing different stories.”

“Our workshop was so good, can’t see how it could be improved.”

“Wonderful speaker, so easy to listen to. very helpful posters put up.”

“As a person who is a carer for two persons I found this course very good.”

Participants reported that the workshop had helped change their understanding of how it feels to have memory loss, “I didn’t think as much in depth before” and “It has changed my views because I didn’t know a lot about dementia.” Some commented on the differing things they had learned including: “I learned that dementia is a disease”; “made me more aware of the symptoms”; and “patience is very important”

 Other comments on the day included:

“Helped me realise there is much more that can be done to help a person with dementia in practical ways.”

“I realise it is mostly family members who care for them and they need to know some simple helpful actions.”

“We must put more money into a person to get them out in the community and not imprisoned in their own homes.”

Participants reflected on how the workshop helped them to understand how it feels to have memory loss/dementia:

“It has helped my understanding because I never thought about it that way before.”

“Understanding the confusion the person is going through”

Everyone was encouraged to identify things that hope to do now improve how people with memory loss are viewed or treated.

“know more about people’s background”


“talk to people about it”

“speak to more groups like this”

“give people time, understanding and patience”

“learn more about people’s background before you judge”

“tell people that there are many reasons why a person with dementia acts in a certain way”

“more awareness in the community is needed”

Angelina with her granny

While most of the people joining the training were pensioners, the training took place in the school half term, and Irish in Britain were delighted to include Angela’s granddaughter Angelina who joined in with all the activities, contributed to discussion and shared lots of useful ideas. 

Dementia is often considered an disease of older people, but in the UK 42,000 people below the age of 65 have a diagnosis of dementia. There are steps that all of us, young or old, can take to better support people with dementia and it is so important for young people to understand memory loss too.

Following this special training, Chris and the group are looking into training up some volunteers in dementia first aid skills and setting up some keep fit activities to help promote healthy living, healthy living and social interaction being great ways of slowing down the onset of dementia.

Congratulations to Alice K, Angela G, Angelina P, Bridget C, Caroline H, Claire O’R, Chris O’R, Eileen H, Kathleen K, Kath W, Mary K, Hannah, John O’C., Mary H, Mary S Pauline S, Peggy O’R, Sally Mo, Sally Mu, Sally S, Sean G, Yvonne K for successfully completing this Cuimhne Champions training.


Thanks to City Bridge for supporting this activity.

As one of the participants has commented “we need more workshops for a wider audience”.  If you are reading this and would like to volunteer with us to set up training workshops for other groups please do get in touch with Zibiah, we would love to hear from you.