My name’s Katie Lapping and I’m 20 years old. I live in Erskine with my family, but spend most of my time in Glasgow, where I work part-time and study English literature at the University of Strathclyde.
I got involved with Alzheimer Scotland for personal reasons. From the age of 14 up until my 20th birthday last year I helped care for my grandpa, who had Alzheimer’s. As I was growing up, his condition was declining. Constantly being around someone with dementia became so normal for me that when my grandpa passed away I worried about not having that sense of normality in my life anymore.
I knew that I wanted to help other carers, and I thought applying to be a volunteer would be a good place to start. I got in touch with Alzheimer Scotland’s Forget Me Not project and received fantastic training from Fay McCormick, the Forget Me Not project coordinator, and Susan Rendell, the volunteer coordinator.
I was placed in a care home to spend time with a younger man with dementia. I was a little daunted at first as I had only ever spent time with older adults who’d been diagnosed with forms of dementia. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Fay came with me to meet Jimmy for the first time and reassured me. Similarly, the staff and visiting carers at the home were always present and supportive.
We always spent time in the common room in the home, so it was frequently lively and we often interacted as a group with the other residents and their families. Jimmy and I liked similar music and would speak about The Who, The Clash and The Smiths. We’d listen to music, debate what song was best and read NME. He’d educate me about football and show me the correct way to complete crosswords. Unfortunately, I only spent about four weeks getting to know him before having to move on when his condition and needs changed. This served as a reminder of how changeable things could be, but also highlighted that Alzheimer Scotland had my best interests at heart too.
Since then, I’ve been volunteering at the under 65s café every Monday, which I really enjoy. It’s a really relaxed environment where everyone can sit with a cup of tea or coffee and just chat about their week. Sometimes this involves speaking about dementia and what it entails, but more often than not, it’s just a time for people to comfortably share news and talk about hobbies or upcoming events. I hope that I am able to provide a bit of company for people who attend, whether it’s as part of a group or on a one-to-one basis.
Personally, I’ve found it quite therapeutic being able to remain in the company of people who cope with dementia on a daily basis. I feel very privileged to be afforded the opportunity to hear about their lives and connect with their families. I think we can all relate to people despite our differences and I’ve been able to laugh and talk with people I might not have initially thought I would have.
I would recommend anyone wanting to volunteer to go to the Forget Me Not service in Glasgow. I know the idea of meeting new people and forging relationships can be daunting. But I have learned that although dementia may connect us, it certainly doesn’t define who each person is. Each individual I have met has taught me something different. Getting to know them and giving a small amount of my time has helped me remove my own stigmas and see them for who they really are. Find out about volunteering with the Glasgow Forget Me Not service here.
Find out about volunteering opportunities in your area here.