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  • Staying well, connected to others and resilient
  • Supporting people to contribute and do things they enjoy

The Alzheimer's Society - Side by Side Dementia: Reducing isolation and loneliness

Organisation

Alzheimer’s Society is a charity that campaigns for change, funds research to find a cure and supports people living with dementia today. 
 
Our vision is to achieve a world without dementia and our mission is to: Change the face of dementia research; demonstrate best practice in dementia care and support; provide the best advice and support to anyone dealing with dementia; and influence the state and society to enable those affected by dementia to live as they wish to live. 

What is the innovation?

The Alzheimer’s Society Side by Side service is different to  traditional befriending services in that it it matches adults who have dementia with volunteers who can enable the person to continue to enjoy their passions and interests, whether that's going to the theatre, concerts, shopping, football matches or anything else at all!  Side by Side focuses on keeping individuals connected with their communities and gives people the confidence to continue living their lives independently and to share their skills. This approach not only changes the life of the person with dementia but enhances the volunteers life too
 
Through our Side by Side service we have shown that living with dementia doesn’t mean giving up the things you enjoy, and that loneliness needn’t be part of the condition. 

What is the problem this innovation solves?

A diagnosis of dementia can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, and this can worsen as the condition progresses. Getting out of the house to live life fully becomes more difficult. This leads to further isolation, reduction in skills, loss of confidence, higher risk of depression and low wellbeing and the loss of important community links.  Existing services often only offer support between 9am – 3pm, which is restrictive. Our Side by Side Service is offered 7 days a week, including evenings which gives people more choice and control over their support.

Solution

The Side by Side service is an outcome focussed service that enables and empowers the person with dementia to re-engage in their communities and hobbies they once loved. The service is helping people across the country to continue living vibrant, fulfilling lives. Our network of dedicated local volunteers empower people with dementia to build on their skills and strengths and to tackle the barriers that stop them from leading active lives. It also allows them to share their skills with others and build new ones. We have some lovely examples of the Volunteer learning from the person with dementia. 

Evidence base

The Side by Side Service is subject to internal quality reviews and our Making Evaluation Count annual review, which allows us to continuously improve the service.  Attached is the spotlight on Side by Side that provides feedback on the service from people with dementia.  
 
A quote from a person with dementia who uses Side by Side:  
 
“It’s wonderful. Someone different to talk to and who understand my memory problems. Getting out for cards with someone different.  The volunteer learns from me too.  It’s a real help to us both.  I can give her lots of support and advice as well as the support she gives to me.  I just love Fridays when she is coming.”  
 

Expected impact

A diagnosis of dementia can lead to loneliness, isolation and a loss of confidence.  The Side by Side service provides support and enables people with dementia to remain part of their community and the wider society.  It empowers them, building confidence and retaining skills and abilities that might otherwise deteriorate much more quickly. The impact Side by Side has on a person with dementia is to enable and empower them to live as fulfilling a life as possible. 

Stage/spread

We have 60 services operating across the UK, with approximately 1200 active pairings. Since the service began in 2018 we have had 1485 volunteers supporting 4784 people to date in a local face to face way. The service is also offered by telephone and within a few hospitals and to date we have reached an additional 6,333 people with dementia.   

What would councils/health organisations/local areas need to do or have in place to enable it to develop?

Existing Side by Side Services are being developed to include diversity and inclusion for those people with dementia and volunteers from minority backgrounds, with disabilities or in difficult to reach rural communities. 
 
The service is managed within Alzheimer’s Society and can be commissioned by Councils and Clinical Commissioning Groups, or paid for by other grants such as Better Care fund or Prevention Matters.  

What would kill it?

The service is supported by volunteers and is subject to volunteer availability.This can be challenging, especially in rural areas. 

Where to get more information

www.alzheimers.org.uk
   
Support line: 0333 150 3456.
Or, if you speak Welsh, you can call our Welsh-speaking support line on 03300 947 400.
 
Support line opening hours
Monday – Wednesday 9:00am – 8:00pm
Thursday – Friday: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday – Sunday: 10:00am – 4:00pm