WHILE training to be a social worker, Claire Mitchell had always assumed she would be working with children. However, a course placement at an Alzheimer’s Support Day Club in Trowbridge led to a whole new career path as a dementia adviser for the charity.

As one of a team of ten working across Wiltshire, dementia advisers provide a confidential support and advice service to people living with dementia and their families. Clients are referred by, amongst others, GP surgeries and hospitals or can refer themselves to the charity.

In their first session together, Claire who covers Bradford on Avon and part of Trowbridge, provides advice on services and support, including financial benefits, day care, occupational therapy, respite care, support workers, social groups, advice on nutrition or speech therapy, emotional support and much more.

Sensitivity and intuition is a prerequisite for the role. “Some people may be struggling with their diagnosis so when I visit for the first time I don’t say I’m from Alzheimer’s Support but that I work for a charity and how I could help them,” said Claire.

“Some people living with dementia can deny or hide their symptoms and often, it’s the carer who will reveal the extent of the issues they are dealing with. Others want to know as much as they can about their diagnosis and what the future may hold.

“My job is to help to people stay in their own home for as long as possible and feel part of the community. Some may have lost confidence and don’t go out, but I try to encourage them to meet people at Alzheimer’s Support’s groups or to have a Support Worker, but only if they want.”

This initial discussion forms the basis of the client’s support plan which is reviewed after six months with a second home visit. Claire is always available on the phone.

“Families will often test you when you are first there and once they trust me they will open up a bit more,” said Claire. “It’s good for people to have our phone number as we have the time and freedom to help them as they need it. A lot of what I do is assessing how to manage a situation and put people’s minds at rest.”

Claire also attends Memory Cafes for people living with dementia. “The cafes are nice for the carers too as they can chat and share their cares with people like themselves. By the time they leave they are all in a better place.” Dementia advisers service is partially funded by Wiltshire Council.