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Val's story: "Every person living with dementia should have access to a specialist Admiral Nurse"

Volunteer Ambassador Val Wilson explains why she got involved with Dementia UK and what it means to her.

Volunteer Ambassador Val Wilson

Volunteer Ambassador Val Wilson

I looked after my mother who had vascular dementia for 14 years. My mother had been an amazing mother and grandmother, actively involved in our family life. So the impact of my mother’s dementia on our family was enormous. My mother became our first priority over everything else; she was lost, vulnerable and needed us all to walk with her on this debilitating journey every step of the way. Mum was challenging and difficult at times – I thought I could do it on my own but there were times I was at breaking point and there was no support for me.

An Admiral Nurse would have been invaluable as I would have had someone who could offer advice and coping strategies and who really knew and understood what I was truly going through, emotionally and physically.

When my mother died, I felt a huge gap in my life and decided the best way to fill that gap was to become a Volunteer Ambassador for Dementia UK. I feel very strongly that every person living with dementia should have access to a specialist Admiral Nurse.

Raising awareness of Admiral Nurses

We didn’t have an Admiral Nurse to support us when we were caring for Mum and there is no Admiral Nurse in my area…yet. However, I am now part of a steering group – the Wareham & District Dementia Friendly Group – which is working very hard to bring awareness of dementia to our local community and to drive fundraising to help provide an Admiral Nurse.

Having fun with fundraising

Last year I did a trek in Iceland which pushed me to my very limit of endurance. We trekked for nine to 12 hours a day, over a three day period, and I was at least 30 years older than most people in my group. We trekked through some of the world’s most stunning scenery – through snowy mountains, lava fields and glacial streams. The low for me was the very long days, at the end of which we had to put up our tents, and then try and sleep on volcanic bed rock! One of the highs for me was meeting some truly inspirational people, all doing this challenge for their chosen charities.

I’ve raised over £3,000 for Dementia UK through sponsorship and various events including Time for a Cuppa. This is the charity’s main fundraising event of the year, held during 1-8 March. It was such great fun that I’ve just organised another one this year.

I’ve also been very busy supporting Time for a Cuppa events in my area this year. Over the 9 days I attended many events including; an event at the Town Hall in Wareham with our Lady Mayor, community police and our local MP, an event in the local surgery, an event at the cinema…and of course my own Time for a Cuppa event at home.

At all the events I was able to give a little talk and answer questions and just generally be there to support them in my Dementia UK T shirt! Altogether we raised hundreds of pounds – it’s been exhausting but lots of fun. And of course I’m rather partial to cake [and lots of it!].

What it means to me to be a Volunteer Ambassador

I now have a sense of purpose, a way of achieving something…it’s about making the horrible negativity of the dementia journey into something positive.

Families and people living with dementia can sometimes feel very isolated and alone. It would be truly wonderful to imagine that all the families who find themselves on this path could have access to and support from an Admiral Nurse.

As a Volunteer Ambassador I feel very much part of the team. I have lovely regular chats with my mentor, and through other things I’ve done, such as telephone interviews, cheque presentations, attending an amazing tea party at the House of Lords, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many more of the Dementia UK team. I am so pleased and very proud to be helping them in my very small way – what an inspirational group they are. Being a Volunteer Ambassador for Dementia UK has certainly filled the gap left by my late mother, and has given me the inspiration and enthusiasm to achieve so much more in the years ahead.

What I would say to anyone looking to become a charity volunteer

When you feel passionately about something and you share your story you help come to terms with your own journey. Although at times it can be emotional it is also very healing. I have met some lovely people since I have been helping Dementia UK and it is so important to me to help support other  families on their journey. I want them to know they are not on their own and that Dementia UK and Admiral Nurses are there to be with them every step of the way.

We have just had the fantastic news that they are going to start recruiting for an Admiral Nurse in Purbeck. This, in itself, is all the encouragement we need to continue to spread the word and help to create dementia friendly communities everywhere.