Jan’s enthusiasm and knowledge shines through in her role as a dementia project officer at Grand Union. She joined us in 2013 and has helped improve the lives of dementia customers and their carers, both professionally and personally.
“I’ve been at Grand Union for seven years and, coming from a background of nursing, I’m determined to improve the lives of those affected by dementia – both those living with the disease and their carers that so lovingly support individuals.
“I love my job because it’s interesting and varied – no two days are the same. I get to go out into the community and meet people, improving customers’ wellbeing and social inclusion.
“I’d worked as a nurse and in the care setting for more than 40 years before joining Grand Union. Over the years, it seemed as if more and more people were being diagnosed with early stage dementia. I wanted to know why. I was particularly interested in the biology of the disease, wondering what its cause was and if there was anything we could do to prevent it.
“When I joined Grand Union as a dementia project officer it was a great partnership: I was passionate about the cause and my colleagues wanted to do all they could to provide an outstanding environment for dementia patients to live in.
“I work in partnership with lots of organisations – from local authorities, to other housing associations and even architects. I liaised with Dulux Paints to ensure our homes are decorated in a dementia friendly way. I’m also constantly in touch with Central Bedfordshire Council, Milton Keynes Council, Northants County Council and South Northants Council to coordinate allocation of property and ensuring customers have the most appropriate care package.
“I also work with charities such as Age UK and the Northamptonshire Dementia Action Forum, and attend events including the Alzheimer’s Show to learn about revolutionary developments in dementia care. I’m excited about the Tombot – a robotic dog that acts like a real animal, which stimulates and entertains those living with dementia, offering emotional support.
“By far the best part of my job is seeing the impact my role has in the community. At Flowers House, our dementia specialist scheme in Bletchley, customers enjoyed using virtual reality headsets to stimulate their brains and explore new, artificial surroundings. I also implemented a “magic table”, to encourage interaction, and involved customers in singing activities.
“I am also involved in exploring digital technology both for alarm systems and devices for those living with dementia to enable them to live independently for as long as possible.
“It’s incredibly rewarding seeing smiles on faces when involving customers in these activities. I feel like I’m truly making a difference to their wellbeing and it gives me a great sense of purpose.
“Like many other aspects of life, the coronavirus pandemic has affected my work. I had hoped to transform Towcester into a dementia friendly town, by befriending those living with the disease with employees from local businesses. I’d also planned a memory walk with the Alzheimer’s Society.
“While the pandemic has put a pause on these schemes, I’ve had more time to plan other activities and I can’t wait to be back in the community, supporting our very valuable customers for many more years to come.”