Britain’s biggest electricity distributor is continuing its rapid progress towards becoming a dementia-friendly business.Britain’s biggest electricity distributor is continuing its rapid progress towards becoming a dementia-friendly business.
UK Power Networks, which keeps the lights on in London, the South East and East Anglia, is marking World Alzheimer’s Month this September by offering all of its 6,000-strong staff the opportunity to learn more about dementia.
To date, more than 750 managers at the company have undertaken the dementia awareness programme and the next stage will see lessons filtered down to staff at all levels through discussion groups and specially designed information packs.
These outline five key messages about dementia, including correcting some popular misconceptions about the condition, as well as providing access to a range of supporting videos.
While the emphasis is on providing the best customer service to people living with dementia and their families and carers, a number of staff have already indicated the training has also helped them on a personal level away from the workplace.
Bill Blackburn, an operations manager at UK Power Networks, outlined how becoming a dementia friend has helped him gain a greater appreciation and understanding of members of his extended family who live with the condition.
Bill, who works in Lewes, East Sussex, said: “My aunt and uncle on my late mother’s side both have dementia. My aunt has had it for seven or eight years and in more recent years my uncle has had it also.
“Becoming a dementia friend has made a huge difference to me personally and given me a much greater understanding of how to engage with the family members affected by it.
“One of the videos gives the analogy of a bookcase where older books towards the bottom are recalled more easily than any detail of newer books at the top. With this in mind, when I last visited my aunt and uncle I took a collection of old family photographs along.
“I was there for a few hours and my uncle in particular was really responding to the images and the happy memories they were provoking. I felt much better equipped having had the training of how to get the most from my visits and leave them with positive feelings.
“Having received this training it is down to me to pass the information on. When I met a group of colleagues in Brighton and asked how many of them had personal experience of dementia within their family around half of them put their hand up which shows the importance of it.”
Over the past year UK Power Networks has seen a 138% increase in the number customers affected by dementia registering for its free Priority Services Register in the event of a power cut.
Matt Rudling, director of customer services at UK Power Networks, said: “This is about transforming the way we think, act and talk about dementia. Becoming a Dementia Friend increases our awareness of the condition and helps us support our families, friends, colleagues and customers living with dementia.
“People often have a personal response to this programme because dementia doesn’t just affect our customers, it affects many of our employees in their personal lives and we have had hugely positive feedback from across all areas of the business.
“A power cut can be unsettling for someone living with dementia, and we believe that by building greater awareness and understanding of dementia, our staff will be able to provide a service more appropriate to their needs.”
Lenny Shallcross, Alzheimer’s Society head of community engagement, said: “Dementia is set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer. Someone develops the condition every three minutes, and so many people are facing it alone. “Dementia can affect a person’s relationships and their connection to the world they love, leaving them feeling isolated and alone. But by becoming Dementia Friends, UK Power Networks staff will help keep people with dementia connected to their lives, and the people who matter most. “The UK Power Networks response so far has been phenomenal. Already more than 750 managers are now Dementia Friends, joining more than two million across the UK. But we must not lose momentum as dementia continues to be the biggest health and social care challenge of our time. We need all of society to unite with us against dementia and join the movement by becoming a Dementia Friend.”
In addition to people living with dementia, anyone who relies on electricity for medical reasons, has a disability, is of pensionable age or has a young family also qualify for support on the Priority Services Register.
Those on the register can access extra help services including:
• A 24-hour priority phone number
• A dedicated team who will contact you to keep you updated during a power cut
• Tailored support if needed such as home visits, hot meals, advice and keeping your friends and relatives updated
• In certain scenarios we may also offer a free hotel overnight and transport to the hotel
To apply visit www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/priority, ring 0800 169 9970, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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