‘Join demeDFbadgentia research’ visited a Dementia Friends information session led by Dr Shibley Rahman last month.

Dementia Friends is an initiative from one of our partners here at ‘Join dementia research’, Alzheimer’s Society.


Dr Shibley started off with giving 5 key facts about dementia:

  • Dementia is not a natural part of ageing
  • Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain
  • Dementia is not just about memory loss
  • It is possible to live well with dementia
  • There is more to the person than the dementia


The interactive session continued with Dr Shibley giving an effective bookshelf analogy, which he accredited to Dr Gemma Jones. Here he described imagining yourself as a bookshelf, with the top of the bookshelf (yourself) your most recent memories (like from this morning), then going down your body your memories being longer ago – to school memories, and right at the bottom your first toddler memories. Now if the bookcase gets shaken, the top books may fall off, the other books (‘memories’) however, are still in tact. The shelf may then get shaken again, and some more books might fall off, but the books that remain on the shelf are still there.

He also spoke about  the distinction between event and emotion memories. So the first bookcase analogy represents event memories, however we can imagine a bookshelf again in relation to emotion memories. For example, you may remember you were angry about something (your emotion), but you can’t remember what you were angry about (the event). Taking into account how the brain works highlights the importance of research, and what is discovered as research takes place. Something to think about when considering joining dementia research…DFliterature

A very effective activity we did involved everyone being given a character description of someone with dementia. We were instructed not to let others see our description. Dr Shibley then displayed ten activities on a screen from ‘You can make a cup of tea unaided’ to ‘You can help out at your local charity shop and operate the till’. We then had to show on our fingers which of the 10 activities we thought our character could do: some thought 1 or 2, others 3 or 4, with one person responding all 10. In the end, Dr Shibley revealed we had all been given the same character description!

The character description read:

“You are a 74 year old lady; you were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease six years ago. You live with your husband in your family home.”

It was discussed how we didn’t know if the family home was dementia friendly or if her husband was her carer, or if perhaps he had disabilities and in fact she helped him. We also mentioned that her diagnosis could have been very late, and she’d already had Alzheimer’s for some time. Very interested to think about people’s different perceptions of people with dementia!

Presented with our Dementia Friend badge at the end of the session, we were also given literature. This included suggestions such as

  • get in touch and stay in touch with someone I know living with dementia
  • volunteer for an organisation that helps people with dementia
  • campaign for change, e.g. by signing up to Alzheimer’s Society’s campaigns to improve the lives of people with dementia

And Dementia Friends’ key message…‘turning understanding into action’.


JDR_cmyk-200x200Find out more about ‘Join dementia research’ by clicking on ‘Why sign up?’. You can also help us spread the word online, through Facebook and Twitter, and with our free promotional material.

Have you been involved in a study on the service? What did you learn? If you would like to share your story, please email us at comms.jdr@nihr.ac.uk.

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At the end of the session, a representative from Age UK Camden also mentioned their dementia befriending service, which is aimed at socially isolated older people who are experiencing a dementia or memory impairment.