Former Attleborough carer inspired to help spread dementia message
Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2013
A former carer inspired by her work to mount a one-woman awareness and fund-raising campaign in aid of dementia research has urged more people to be aware of the signs of the growing condition.
Rachael Penn had seen the terrible effects the illness could have through her work at The Laurels care home in Attleborough.
Her best friend’s grandmother had also suffered extreme memory loss and confusion as a result of dementia.
So even after leaving her role at The Laurels, she registered as a “dementia coach” to take the message about why fighting the illness is so important out into the heart of the community.
As well as organising a fund-raising event at St Mary’s Church Hall in March, the 25-year-old, of Keeling Way, Attleborough, walked the streets with a collection bucket and even conquered her nerves to do some public speaking about dementia to a crowd gathered at The Forum in Norwich.
Her efforts culminated in a seven-hour-20-minute climb of Britain’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis, at midnight – smashing her £500 fund-raising target by collecting more than £2,000 for the Alzheimer’s Society.
Mrs Penn, who had only just moved to the area before she began fund-raising, said that not knowing anyone in Norfolk had motivated her to get out into the community.
“I had a brilliant response from people,” she said. “It does really hit the hearts of a lot of people.
“When you do see everything right up close, it does give you a new perspective on how dementia affects people. Until recently, we haven’t heard much about dementia but it is important because so many people are affected.
“People seem to not really talk about dementia. Many people don’t know that there are five types of dementia and many people are not aware of the problems it causes.
“It would be nice to see more acceptance of dementia, because everyone knows someone who has got it. There needs to be more acceptance in the community to help people recognise the signs and offer people the support they need.
“A lot of people don’t get the support they need and they need people who are professional who understand the illness.”
Charities such as the Norfolk and Suffolk Dementia Alliance have warned that instances of the condition are increasing because of the growing elderly population.
There are also fears that many of those needing care are people who have moved to Norfolk to retire and do not have a network of family and friends living nearby to support them.
Age UK launched a “dementia-friendly community” in Wymondham last year to provide a network of support for sufferers to find their way around and access the town’s facilities.
Diss was also named as a dementia-friendly community last month. You can still sponsor Mrs Penn by visiting www.justgiving.com/rachael-penn
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