How Volunteer Dementia Navigators are improving the lives of families living with dementia

Volunteer Dementia Navigators in Suffolk

Our Volunteer Development Officer Susan Englefield meets some of the team of volunteers and staff who are essential to our Dementia Together service in Suffolk.

At The Chantry neurological care centre, Sue Ryder coordinates and delivers the Dementia Together service in association with local organisations in the health and social care and voluntary sectors. The service provides practical information and support for people living with dementia and their carers in Suffolk.

Peter Anderson is a Volunteer Level 1 Dementia Navigator, who came to Sue Ryder from Suffolk Family Carers with volunteering experience in dementia services. The Navigator role involves talking to the public, giving them practical advice about living with dementia and signposting them towards other relevant support, should they require it.

Peter, a retiree, volunteers at least two days a week, and is giving his time at weekends over the summer period to promote the service. He will often be out and about in local supermarkets and at events, manning his stall, talking to people affected by dementia and handing out information.

For those who require support, Peter will take the person’s contact details and pass them on to the Senior Navigator to be registered with the service, who will then contact them with further advice and support.

Demand for the service is rising

The Dementia Together service was launched in April this year and Peter is one of five Volunteer Dementia Navigators who, along with paid staff, operate across the Suffolk area (excluding Waveney) supporting carers and people living with dementia.

The service has registered over 300 people since starting in April and the helpline has been busy with a number of Peters respondents using it. As a result, the service is looking for more Volunteer Navigators to support demand.

Level 1 Volunteer Navigators are supported by Level 2 Navigator staff. They are the ones who make contact with service users, carry out needs assessments, man the helpline, provide further support and give referrals to partner services.

“The service is helping to improve the quality of life for carers and their loved ones,” says Level 2 Navigator Rachel Crawford. “We know that, through us helping, people are able to stay at home a lot longer and carers are finding that they are getting a better quality of life with their loved ones.”

Peter highly recommends what he does.

“The role gives me personal satisfaction,” he says. “I appreciate I am in reasonable health and able to help others out and, at the end of the day, that is what I’m here for. Seeing someone smile at the end of a conversation and say ‘Thank you very much – that was a great help’; that is worth its weight in gold.”

What makes a good Volunteer Dementia Navigator?

“I think the key qualities you need for the role are patience, the ability to listen, empathise and to communicate clearly whilst being able to manage your emotions,” Peter continues.

“The role is flexible to suit my hours,” he says. “I’ve had training and good support from staff and the rest of the team; had the opportunity to meet lots of new people; and I get a lot of satisfaction from doing it.”

“At Sue Ryder, we care about our volunteers,” agrees Rachel. “You are valued and there is a great network of people so it’s very much like a family atmosphere; you’ve got that support.

“And there’s an open-door policy if you need to talk to someone in confidence about anything,” she concludes.

Are you interested in becoming a Dementia Navigator?

Contact Sue Ryder The Chantry to find out more

Susan Englefield

Volunteer Development Officer

Susan Englefield