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Fire officers on hand at Bognor day centre in innovative project to increase dementia awareness

Fire officers have been on hand at a Bognor Regis day centre as part of an innovative new project to increase recognition and understanding of dementia among its staff.

West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service officers have been working with dementia day centre, The Chestnuts, in specially organised days to shadow the care team, interact with the customers and learn more about the centre.

As cases of dementia increase it becomes ever more important for WSFRS staff to be able to recognise the wide-ranging symptoms. And WSFRS officers visit vulnerable residents to offer fire safety advice and guidance, fit smoke alarms and answer any questions regarding safety.

Project leader Jackie Boyle, Community Fire Safety Manager said: “Our CFSOs are now encountering dementia on an almost daily basis so this project is all about getting to know each other – it’s allowing The Chestnuts to gain more of an understanding of our prevention work, while our team members are able to learn from the staff which will help them each day in the situations they may face.”

Teri Humphrey, assistant manager at The Chestnuts, added: “The way dementia manifests differs from person to person; no two people have the same symptoms. The chance for the fire service’s safety officers to experience dementia in a real-life setting will enable them to recognise the condition, and to gain a better understanding of how to communicate with somebody who is living with the disease.”

This project also brings to the forefront the importance of helping and supporting carers of those with dementia. Mark Holland, Community Fire Safety Officer, said: “We want to ensure that our safety advice resonates with everyone that we visit and this experience has given me a much better insight into how to adapt our communication style when speaking to someone with dementia. We are very grateful to The Chestnuts for allowing us the opportunity and we look forward to working with them in the future.”

The Chestnuts Day Centre, run by West Sussex County Council, offers respite care for those living with dementia and provides a safe and welcoming environment for people with the condition to socialise and interact with their peers.

Carl Eldridge
Carl Eldridge
Carl Eldridge is a hugely experienced journalist who has worked on local and national newspapers, magazines and written for websites over the past 30 years. He lives in Bognor Regis with his wife and son.