The Canadian Pacific Project has many different elements that makes it one of the most diverse projects being undertaken by a heritage railway. One of the more unlikely aspects to the project is providing Dementia Awareness Training to our staff and volunteers.
Why is this important? In recent times, dementia has begun to feature more and more in media, indeed even Hollywood has chosen it as a subject for the big screen with Julianne More winning an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in "Still Alice." Although we are becoming more aware of the impact that this illness can have on not only the person living with the condition but their family too, there is still a need for dementia to be better understood, so that we can respect, communicate and interact better with those with this condition. The railway appreciates that it has a responsibility to improve the care of these people while they are visiting. The railway attracts a number of older visitors and some will be living with dementia. Providing training to our staff and volunteers will help us provide a better experience for these groups. We can give them, their families and carers a place where they can come and experience the joy of steam, without the worry.
What steps have we taken?
In November 2016, the railway became part of the Hampshire Dementia Action Alliance which is a regional alliance (part of the National Dementia Action Alliance which was set up in 2012). The alliances are made up of organisations and individuals committed to making a positive difference to the quality of life for people with dementia and their carers. As a member the railway signed up to the National Dementia Declaration, to read click here. The railway then published its own Action Plan, setting out what we will do to help secure these outcomes and improve the lives of people living with dementia and their carers.
Dr Becky Peacock, the projects Outreach and Interpretation Officer has become a Dementia Friends Champion and provides awareness sessions to staff and volunteers at the railway. These sessions aim to change the way we think about dementia and how we can help to improve people's quality of life with simple steps. The training sessions have a great impact on those that attend helping them to not only improve visitors experiences at the railway but how they deal with people living with dementia in the wider world.
Here are some testimonies from those who have attended the sessions:
‘‘I found it a thoroughly worthwhile experience and feel I have gained a much better understanding of dementia which can only be of great benefit when interacting with people living with the disease. Thank you for organising these sessions which are well worth making the effort to attend.’’ Jim Russell (District Inspector, Mid Hants Railway)
‘‘Thanks for organizing the Dementia Friendly course for us all. It was only an hour long, but it left me with a much better understanding of how to assist people living with dementia. In fact, having learned these new skills in such a short time, I think the world would be a better place if everyone took this powerful little course. We would certainly be much kinder to each other.’’ Sue Dixon (Volunteer)
It doesn't stop there!
Visitors who are planning to visit the railway with people with dementia might additionally be interested in the Railway's "Basket of Memories." The Basket of Memories has been created by our Education Officer and is filled with items from the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s such as, photos, artefacts to handle and musical snippets. This coupled with the experience of travelling on a heritage railway provides a wonderful experience. For more information, please click here.
To read the Watercress Line's Action Plan, click here.