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Battling Loneliness Side By Side

Alzheimer's Society's Side by Side service combats the loneliness which can affect people living with dementia

Last year, Martin from South Norfolk was diagnosed with Posterior Cortical Atrophy, a rare type of dementia which causes damage at the back of the brain. The condition has already taken away his ability to drive, read and write.

For many people like Martin, who are living with dementia, the condition can leave them feeling isolated and lonely. In fact, research shows that people with dementia are more at risk of loneliness than the general population – with a third of people reporting to have lost friends since their diagnosis. Two thirds of people with dementia remain in their communities, but many feel trapped in their own homes, with almost one in ten only leaving the house once a month.

Martin is determined to look on the bright side. With the support of Alzheimer's Society's Side by Side service, funded by players of People's Postcode Lottery, Martin is continuing to live his life post-diagnosis.

Side by Side is a new approach that helps people with dementia to do things they love, and take up new hobbies, with the support of a volunteer. Activities could include a visit to a garden centre, going to a local group, heading out for a walk, or trying out something new for the very first time.

Once a fortnight, Martin looks forward to a visit from his Side by Side volunteer, Andrew.

Martin said, "I cannot begin to express how wonderful this is. We share similar interests such as local football, local history, and walking so we hit it off straight away. We do various local walking routes and recently we went into Norwich City Centre where we visited streets and playing fields that I grew up on.

"I wouldn't feel confident enough to do these things on my own, plus I cannot drive so I guess I'd just stay at home all day."

Andrew, from Norwich, looked for volunteering opportunities once he retired from work. He said, "I wanted to find something that I knew would help someone on a one-to-one basis. This service is perfect and really works well for the both of us. I have an aunt living with vascular dementia which is why I looked to the Alzheimer's Society for ways to help.

"I would definitely encourage others to sign up as a Side by Side volunteer. I am not doing anything different to what I would usually do on my own or with friends. It's nice to know someone else is benefiting from your time with them."

Kathryn Smith, Director of Operations at Alzheimer's Society, is also a Side by Side volunteer. She said, "Loneliness is a real problem for people with dementia, yet we know that one of the most important things for those affected is to remain part of their community and continue to do the things they love – from going shopping to enjoying a local football match.

"Our Side by Side service, offering one-to-one support, is a vital step to making this a reality. One person every three minutes develops dementia, so it's vital that we all unite to against the condition so that we can to make a meaningful difference, such as becoming a volunteer."

Alzheimer's Society is the UK's leading dementia support and research charity. They are here for anyone affected by any form of dementia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Players have, to date, awarded the charity over £1 Million in funding. This will help roll out Side by Side so that everyone in the UK with dementia can be supported to live the lives they want.

If you might be interested in becoming a Side by Side volunteer or know somebody who would like to access the service, visit the Alzheimer's Society website or call 0330 333 0804.

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Martin and his Side by Side volunteer, Andrew, like to enjoy local walks and visit places from Martin's past
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