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Alzheimer’s Awareness Day – Dawn’s Story

Development Manager and Trainer, Dawn Toop, shares her experience of the dementia training she has done through FirstPort, and how this has helped her in both her personal and professional life.

Alzheimer has affected me personally, as I am one of the main carers for my Aunt. Here she is with my husband at a time when she had just started to show more symptoms of dementia, repeating questions and forgetting answers. She has always loved a glass of wine!

There is of course initial fear from those who start to show symptoms of dementia and my aunt certainly showed that. Over the years she has worsened and does not know any of us anymore. This is the heart-breaking element to this disease.

As part of my role as Development Manager and Trainer, I have been supportedto do some training to understand dementia. I have also received support from the Alzheimer’s Society group and become a “Dementia Friend”. These experiences have helped me to deal with both my aunt and customers.

My family and I had training from the Alzheimer’s Society friends group at home, and from this, I invited them along to one of our team meetings, to present and train colleagues in my area to become Dementia Friends. They offer online tutorials on how to become a friend and how to deal with dementia, you can visit their website for more information on

I have an NVQ3 in Health and Social care, and part of this covered dementia. I also regularly look at online courses that cover dementia to update my knowledge and learn new ways to help. However, dealing with it face-to-face is invaluable and really complements the theory you get from a book.

My favourite way of explaining dementia is as follows:

“The illness is like a row of Christmas tree lights and occasionally a bulb will not work and that stops that signal getting through.

“It’s about how you answer a question from a dementia sufferer, as if it’s the first time they have asked it, not the third or fourth  time that they will remember – that feeling, emotion, kindness.”

Our retirement customers see how this disease affects people and they can be frustrated, confused and upset by it.By explaining, teaching and empowering them to help one another, they show kindness, understanding and, most of all, they show support to their neighbours . When this happens, kindness runs through the development.

I care for my Aunt with love, she may not remember who I am, but she feels the emotion. As Development Manager, I use this feeling when dealing with those customers who don’t remember, who are scared and need that reassurance.

Get involved on World Alzheimer’s Awareness Day

World Alzheimer’s Day takes place on 21 September 2020 and is part of World Alzheimer’s Month. This year’s focus is ‘stigma’, and we need your help to break the stereotypes and myths that surround a dementia diagnosis.

If you would like to find out more about becoming a Development Manager and being part of a support team, please visit our careers pages to find out more:

Find careers and information about Development Managers