First’s ‘Dementia Day’
First West of England has held a Dementia Awareness event for staff in one of its Bristol depots. In the latter part of 2014, ten people from Bristol attended a special pilot session at the company’s Lawrence Hill depot in the city. It was designed to bring those with dementia and their carers together with bus drivers and the local management team. It was designed to raise awareness and understanding of the signs and symptoms of dementia, while offering bus workers practical help and advice about how they can better assist those people with dementia who travel by bus. As part of ‘Dementia Day on the Buses’ First Bristol staff were given some basic training by Dementia Alliance before having the opportunity to talk directly to older people and their carers about their experiences travelling on the bus. On a national level, First UK Bus works closely with the Alzheimer’s Society, having introduced a training module for front line staff enabling them to provide appropriate assistance to customers who have dementia.
Regional Customer Services Manager for First, Natacha Tagholm, said, ‘This was a pilot event but it went very well and we are now planning to roll more of these out. It certainly had an impact. As a result of understanding more about the condition, our drivers now know more about how to handle what could otherwise be difficult situations. They’ve been taught to be more understanding of the issues people face, being prepared to offer gentle help and assistance if people need it. It adds an extra layer of training over and above what we already give our drivers, and supports initiatives that we already have in place, such as the safe and better journey cards – which give people a way of discreetly asking for support and assistance. It also compliments the fact that many of our travel shops in the region are already designated “safe places” where vulnerable people can access help if they need it.’