Befriending Project at Chiswick Day Support

Gives social work students vital experience whilst benefitting dementia sufferers

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Standing left to right: Rosalind Lister (volunteer), Cynthia Powell (manger), Shirley Apostolou (social work student), Chandni Khanderia (volunteer), Fahad Al (Huda volunteer), Magda Bradley (volunteer), Rogerlene (volunteer).

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A unique relationship between a Chiswick day centre and two local Colleges means older people with dementia are getting more support, and social work students are gaining vital career experience.

The befriending project at Chiswick Day Support involves social work students developing a one-to-one relationship with clients, many of whom have dementia.

Such close involvement is hugely beneficial for clients. It helps them to recall experiences and events from their pasts, thus keeping their minds active and reducing feelings of isolation.

The service does not offer one-to-one support to clients, so the support from students at Uxbridge College, Hammersmith and Ealing College means clients get a better quality of care.

Students have developed friendships with clients during regular visiting and conversations, which involves 90-minute sessions. They swap pictures and share life experiences.

Cynthia Powell, the manager of Chiswick Day Support, who oversaw the project said, “This was an excellent opportunity for us to provide one-to-one, and enhance our service to meet individual need. Since we started, it has been working really well and we have had positive comments from carers, and we can see a real difference in the clients. We are grateful for the funding from the Chiswick area committee and the Isleworth and Brentford committee to help make this wonderful project happen.”

The Hounslow branch of the Alzheimer’s Society provided training for the students.

Shirley Apostolou, herself a social work student, has been involved with the project, said, “This has been an excellent project. It provides the type of quality placement that students crave to develop their own skills of working with clients. For the client, it is an opportunity to spend some time with a new face, hear about their lives and build a meaningful relationship.”

Cllr Pamela Fisher, lead member for adult social services and health, said, “This is a unique arrangement and we do not think there is anything similar elsewhere in London. Social work students need placement opportunities so they can prepare themselves for professional practice. For our clients, being listened too, engaging in conversation and being able to build friendships is vitally important for keeping mentally active.”

October 10, 2008