Meeting the multiple challenges of dementia

Published: 16 May 2016 By Jennifer Jackson

How Alzheimer's Society is setting the agenda

Alzheimer's Society logo


In an exclusive interview as part of Dementia Awareness Week, CEO Jeremy Hughes and director of people & organisational development, Brett Terry, explore some of the key challenges in the years ahead and the opportunities they present to employees and volunteers alike.

Dementia Awareness Week


Tell us briefly about the Alzheimer’s Society

We are the UK's leading dementia charity, providing care today and searching for the cure for tomorrow. Our workforce of more than 10,000 volunteers and 2,600 employees work tirelessly to make a positive impact on the lives of people affected by dementia.


What are the key challenges you face in the coming years?

Dementia is a challenge to society as a whole; every three minutes someone in the UK develops dementia.  Therefore, everyone including businesses and community groups, has a role and responsibility to play their part in transforming how we think about and act on dementia.  
One key internal opportunity is the importance of sustaining the Society's internal organisational development programme. Right at the heart of this multi-year change programme is the goal of building a more collaborative, efficient and effective organisation.  Our overarching objective is to align and amplify our collective efforts so that people affected by dementia can receive more of the services, support and information they need, every day.


What are the values and beliefs that drive the Society’s work?

Our organisational values - integrity, excellence, challenge, inclusivity and enablement - permeate everything we do at Alzheimer's Society. The values are lived in every volunteer and employee through every interaction and we are very proud of this. It makes us a genuinely values-led place to work and volunteer. While all our values are important, inclusion is perhaps paramount. Dementia does not discriminate and, as an organisation, we need to better reflect and represent the communities we serve. Most importantly, we always seek the opinions and views of people with dementia and their carers to shape our work.


The Society aims to ‘change the face of dementia research’. How will it do this?

We are committed to spend at least £10m each year on research. We fund research into the cause, cure, care and prevention of all types of dementia. We will work actively towards a cure, ultimately, and also provide services and initiatives that enable people with dementia to live the lives they want to live, for as long as they are able to. We are also a founding partner in the UK’s first dedicated Dementia Research Institute. Worth a total investment of £250m, it is the greatest investment of its kind this country has ever seen.


You talk in your strategy about demonstrating best practice in dementia care and support. How do you know it when you see it?

There will be many longer term metrics, including people living in their homes for longer where possible. Other indicators of our success will include the commissioning of our services, the continued funding and roll out of services we design and 'seed fund' and, most importantly, the feedback we get from our service users regarding the impact these services have on them. Another important aspect of our engagement with dementia is our effectiveness in raising public awareness and shaping the policies that relate to dementia. We influence nationally and locally through our trusted brand, ensuring the voice of people affected by dementia is heard and listened to.


What kind of career environment does the Society offer for volunteers and employees?

We are striving to create an environment where all individuals are able to fulfil their potential and progress within the organisation. Our people are our key differentiator and developing them develops us and our work, ultimately benefiting people affected by dementia. Our aim is to establish a culture of continuous learning and, supported by appropriate and accessible learning and development initiatives and interventions, we believe we will nurture and retain the professional, passionate people we already have as well as those who join us in future. 


What qualities, skills or aptitudes do you look for in new employees?

Of course, the knowledge, skills and aptitude to do the job at hand is the initial prerequisite. Beyond that, however, it's about the drive and desire to make a difference. It's a very exciting time to be part of Alzheimer’s Society. You will enjoy a collaborative team culture and ongoing training and development. But more than that, you will be able to look back in five, 10 or 15 years and know that we transformed the ways in which the most vulnerable members of our society are seen and supported.


Looking back five years from now, what do you want the Society to have achieved?

In five years time we need to see more self-mobilised and galvanised communities where people with dementia are treated with dignity and respect, and where they can live lives as full and meaningful as possible. We need to create a movement of millions of people, each playing their part – in whatever way they can - in defeating dementia.

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