Suzanne Wightman

I work as an Admiral Nurse Professional and Practice Development Facilitator for Dementia UK in the North East. My role involves supporting the Admiral Nurses with their development as dementia specialists. This is done through monthly group meetings and peer support to help Admiral Nurses provide the best possible care to the families and individuals they support.

Having had a long career within dementia care, I feel passionate about making a difference for families with dementia, and how Admiral Nurses are crucial in doing this.  In my previous role as a clinical manager, I campaigned for many years to develop a local Admiral Nurse team, so I am very aware of the impact that our nurses can have.

Some years ago, I supported my dad and our wider family following his diagnosis of dementia. He lived in Aberdeenshire where there were no Admiral Nurses, and it was a complex situation. My step mum, Ann, was younger than him, so when he was diagnosed, just after retiring, she was working full time as a teacher and they had teenage children living at home.

Suzanne Wightman's TIme for a Cuppa event

The local support was inadequate and the services that were available were not knowledgeable about dementia or skilled in their communication. It was really hard on Ann, who reduced her working hours more and more over time. I used to say to Ann, “You need Admiral Nurses here in Aberdeenshire!” – but there still aren’t any. That’s one of the reasons campaigning and fundraising for Dementia UK is so important.

I thought holding a Time for a Cuppa would be a lovely and sociable way of raising funds

I ran my first ever Time for a Cuppa in March 2019 – long overdue! I thought holding a Time for a Cuppa would be a lovely and sociable way of raising funds, and something different to the fundraising curry nights that I had run previously! I took some top tips from our local Volunteer Ambassadors who have done Time for a Cuppa for quite a few years now. The advice they offered was invaluable and in the end the day was amazing.  I held it at home and we raised £640, which included money raised selling leftover cakes the following day!

Over 100 people came during the day. We had all ages and generations of families as well as being joined by local families affected by dementia. It was great that two Admiral Nurses from the Kirklees service were there too: Katie and Karen. We used collection boxes in each room of the house and ensured we had lots of seating and table space for groups of people to have a chat.  I had so many cake donations which was quite a surprise! I also ensured that we had a selection of cakes to cater for special dietary needs as a neighbour who has a gluten-free diet. For serving drinks and cakes I had two volunteers (my daughter and niece) who were brilliant at non-stop tea and coffee making throughout the day. I really couldn’t have done it without them or Maureen, our local Volunteer Ambassador, who managed the tombola and raffle like a true champion!

All in all, it was an amazing day, not only for the money raised but also for the local social networking amongst neighbours and friends. 

My personal favourite cake was the Victoria sandwich that I finished baking at 2am – I followed the Dementia UK recipe and it looked perfect. However, the most amazing, interesting and delicious cake was definitely the courgette and lime cake – it was delicious!

All in all, it was an amazing day, not only for the money raised but also for the local social networking amongst neighbours and friends. As well as me, there were our two Admiral Nurses and three Volunteer Ambassadors attending, so the advice and support on offer, in a relaxed and informal setting, for people and families living with dementia was brilliant too. I had lots of lovely feedback from people attending and some of the local village magazines wrote about the day, with photos.

As for my top tips for this year’s hosts… make sure you stock up on cups, plates and napkins so you don’t have to wash up so often. It gives you more time to host and enjoy the day.