In conjunction with NHS Western Isles, Tommy Whitelaw from the ALLIANCE Dementia Carers Voices will be hosting a series of events in the Outer Hebrides aimed at raising dementia awareness for people with dementia and their carers.

Tommy, who lives in Glasgow, was a full-time carer for his late mother Joan who had been diagnosed with vascular dementia. Through supporting his mother, he became a well-known national campaigner raising awareness of the issues surrounding dementia.

He said: “My motivation as a carer came from the love I had for my mum and I would do it all again in a heartbeat, but my experience has shown me just how tough it is to live with dementia and how many struggles it can bring.

“I felt passionately that no one should have to face the confusion, loneliness and isolation and my passion to raise awareness of dementia and its impact on families has grown even stronger since my mum's passing,” Tommy continued.

“I am working on The Dementia Carers Voices project with the Health and Social Care Alliance which will build on my 'Tommy on Tour' campaign by engaging with carers, collecting their life stories and raise awareness amongst health and social care professionals on both dementia and caring.”

The ‘Tommy on Tour’ short film, which was produced by Tommy to raise awareness for people with dementia and their carers from a carer’s perspective is available to view at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6sm4jOxeQs

During the events, which are being held throughout the Western Isles, Tommy will provide an emotional account of caring for his mother, whilst promoting the work of Dementia Carer Voices, which raises awareness of the issues around caring for someone with dementia including among health and social care professionals, students and the wider public.

The island events will also be attended by Elizabeth Shelby, NHS Western Isles Dementia Consultant Nurse, and Denise Symington, NHS Western Isles Patient Focus Public Involvement Development Officer; and will enable those with dementia and their carers to meet in a relaxed and friendly environment, encouraging them to discuss issues which affect them.

Elizabeth Shelby, NHS Western Isles Dementia Consultant Nurse, said: “Tommy’s experience will ring true with many people who had difficulty finding and accessing support following a dementia diagnosis.

“In the islands, particularly in the more remote areas, it has been families and communities who have provided the main support to their loved ones and we need to ensure those carers have all the information and help that they need to carry on. 

“The local strategy aims to ensure that wherever you live, you do not need to face dementia alone. Dementia is everyone’s business and knowing what anyone can do to make a difference is a first step.”

Tommy's Outer Hebrides events will be held as follows:

Barra – Meet and Greet Carers and people with Dementia – Wednesday, May 31st, 1.30pm-2.30pm, Cobhair Bharraigh, Castlebay. 

Uists – Carers Morning Tea – Thursday, June 1st, 10.30am to 11.30am, Sacred Heart House, Daliburgh.

Harris – Staff and Carers Tea – Thursday, June 1st, 7pm-8pm, Harris House, Tarbert.

Lewis – Opportunity to visit the Clisham Memory Garden – Friday, June 2nd, 1pm to 1.30pm, Clisham Ward Garden at Western Isles Hospital, Stornoway.

Lewis – Ceilidh on the Ward – Friday, June 2nd, 1.30pm to 2.30pm, Erisort Ward, Western Isles Hospital, Stornoway.

Lewis – Memory March, hosted by Alzheimer Scotland – Saturday, June 3rd, 2pm, Bridge Centre, Stornoway.

As part of the project’s pledge campaign and in the lead up to ‘What Matters To You’ day being held on June 6th, additional events are also being planned for health and social care professionals and students to receive information to support them in delivering compassionate, personal and relationship based care. 

Those attending will be encouraged to create pledges, with the simple message of how individuals can make a difference, no matter what their role. 

The ALLIANCE Dementia Carer Voices particularly highlights the role of carers as experts, and champions how they should be recognised for the value that they bring to the life of their loved ones and to society as a whole; carers as people with needs and carers as people with independent lives.  

Furthermore it empowers carers by providing information based on the Charter of Rights and Carers Strategy about caring for someone with dementia, and captures the experiences of carers across Scotland with a view to informing future policy and service provision.