Dementia support role ‘opened my eyes’ says Carrickfergus volunteer

Matthew Mo is sharing his experience of volunteering to encourage new volunteers to support people to live well with dementia. INCT 36-750-CON
Matthew Mo is sharing his experience of volunteering to encourage new volunteers to support people to live well with dementia. INCT 36-750-CON

A Carrick medical student is sharing his experience of volunteering to encourage others to support people living with dementia and their carers.

Matthew Mo, 19, joined the My Life My Way project, a partnership with Age NI and the Northern Trust, supported by the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Out: Connecting Older People programme, earlier this year.

Matthew explains: “I visit a lovely older lady on a Friday morning for one or two hours - we spend time chatting together about anything and everything over a cup of tea and some biscuits. She suffers from a mild form of dementia and I know she really appreciates the time I spend with her.

“My role is so simple yet so important – it helps this lady cope a little better with dementia. I look forward to hearing about her past and her memories of growing up. As a younger volunteer, it’s fascinating to hear stories about her life.’

“The experience has opened my eyes to the impact that dementia has on the personal lives of people in my local area of Carrickfergus, especially on their independence and ability to understand the world around them. Volunteering has been easy to fit into my schedule – it’s very flexible.

“All I had to do was arrange a consistent date and time that suited both of us. The recruitment process is very simple too. I contacted Age NI through the website, arranged an appointment with a community navigator and attended a brief training session on dementia, focusing on potential impacts and how to deal with different situations if they were to arise.’

Matthew, who is going to study Medicine at Cardiff, hopes to continue his involvement with this worthwhile initiative when he returns during breaks.

“It’s fantastic to have the opportunity to volunteer again when I come home, especially since I’ve built up a friendship with the lady I visit. I thoroughly enjoy it.

“Many people suffer from the effects of loneliness and isolation and My Life My Way is very important in helping to combat this. I’d encourage more local volunteers to get involved in this project – it’s a rewarding role that is helping to change the local community of Carrickfergus for the better.”

Age NI not only offers an integrated, holistic approach to delivering services for people with dementia but also a support network for families and carers by providing access to other vital initiatives like its Advice Service. Brenda Kearns, Head of the Age NI Advice Service, said: “Our team of trained advisers work closely with the My Life My Way team receiving ongoing referrals from carers in the Carrick area who may require additional advice, practical information and reassurance on a range of issues including benefits, care, health and housing.

“Together we are ensuring that older people, as well as their families and carers, are getting the right support to help them to live well with dementia.”

To find out more about volunteering with the My Life My Way project in Carrickfergus, contact Mandy Wilson on 0743 658 1438/028 9024 5729 or mandy.wilson@ageni.org

To contact the Age NI Advice Service, call freephone 0808 808 7575.