A SALE woman who looked after her mother when she developed dementia gave first hand advice to Stretford Mall workers in training to help customers dealing with the condition.

Managers at Stretford Mall have heeded a call from Stretford and Urmston MP Kate Green to undertake specialist dementia training as part of the nationwide Dementia Friends campaign.

Dementia Friends was launched by the Alzheimer’s Society to help people understand what it’s like to live with dementia and turn that understanding into action.The aim is to recruit one million Dementia Friends by 2015.

After undergoing her own dementia training in Parliament, Kate Green invited Stretford Mall to sign up for the campaign and the first Dementia Friends training session for staff took place on May 23.

It involved representatives from Peacocks, Iceland, Bonmarche and Royal Bank of Scotland who attended along with Mike Russell, Operations Manager for Stretford Mall, and members of the mall security and cleaning team.

Mike Russell, Stretford Mall Operations Manager, said: “The training was informative and eye-opening. It will certainly help us to spot signs when customers who have dementia might just need our help, patience and care.

“It was a very worthwhile experience and I am glad we have been able to come together with some of the main retailers at Stretford Mall to ensure we can spread this important training as far as possible.”

There to share her moving story of what caring for someone with dementia is like was 53-year-old Mandy Sellers, from Sale, who gave up her job to look after her late mother when she was found to have the condition more than a decade ago.

Now an Alzheimer’s Society volunteer, Mandy said: “Making sure that as many people as possible are aware of dementia and its effects on both the person who has it and their family has become a passion of mine, which is why I was delighted to become involved with the Dementia Friends training at Stretford Mall.

“My mum, Rebecca Sullivan, who died at the age of 82 three years ago, had both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. The doctors reckoned she’s had it for at least 10 years but it first became apparent soon after my dad died from a heart attack on their 50th wedding anniversary.

“Mum seemed to be getting more and more forgetful and for about a year afterwards the doctors kept telling us it was the shock of losing my dad but we in the family knew there was something else going on.

“My sister looked after her at first and then my husband David and I moved into her house, which was also in Sale, to look after her full-time. We also had help from lots of other family members.

“I eventually gave up my job as a senior customer services operator with a telecommunications firm in Trafford to look after her full time. Mum eventually had a fall and then a stroke and went downhill pretty quickly after that.

“She couldn’t feed herself or go to the toilet on her own. At times she didn’t know who we were but we knew she still loved us and smiled when she saw us, which is all that really mattered.

“It was certainly the best thing I ever did to give up work to look after her.”

Lynda Pine, an Alzheimer’s Society volunteer who helped organise the Dementia Friends training at Stretford Mall, said: “The session for staff from the businesses lasted for about an hour and was very useful.

“The aim was to help people to identify the signs and symptoms of customers with dementia and how to give them the right kind of support.

“People with the condition may appear to be confused about what they want or have difficulty in handling money.

“The key thing is for staff to show understanding and patience to someone like this and to speak slowly and clearly to them using short, simple sentences.

“People with dementia who are not dealt with pleasantly by someone in a shop or a bank can be left feeling isolated which in turn adds to their confused state.

“The training session went very well and we are hoping to arrange more of them at Stretford Mall in the future.”

Kate Green MP said: “I’m really pleased that businesses at Stretford Mall have supported my call to take part in a Dementia Friends training session.

“When I participated in the training in Parliament I found it a real eye-opener, useful, practical and very worthwhile.

“With a growing number of people living with dementia, it’s more important than ever that we all have a better understanding of the condition and it’s great that staff at the Mall have been able to develop this during Dementia Awareness Week.

“I look forward to working with the Alzheimer’s Society to encourage more local businesses have their staff take part in dementia training.”

Bonmarche Manager Darren Broom, who was among those at the training session, said: “It was very useful. It was also surprising in that I was expecting to hear how to help people with dementia just struggle through.

“But it was very positive and a real eye opener. The main message I took from it was that you can still live well even if you have dementia.

“From our point of view it’s all about being a little bit more patient and understanding.”