Supported travel – people living with dementia

15 September 2015
Blogging for us on this edition is PC Fiona Andrews.
Have you worked with people with dementia? What do you think about Fiona's work? Have you been involved in the scheme? Join in the discussion in the comments below.

Fiona Andrews
Fiona has been nominated for ‘Best dementia friendly organisational initiative’ award by Alzheimer’s Society for their 2015 Dementia Friendly Awards.

It was a conversation with rail staff at York that made me look into what it must be like for a person living with dementia to be at a train station.

During a team briefing session staff mentioned that they were dealing with an increasing number of confused people, and they didn’t quite know what to do when someone had forgotten who they were and why they were there.

So I took a trip to the local Alzheimer’s Society to see if they could help, and found out that a group in York called Dementia Without Walls was being set up as a result of the recent Prime Minister’s challenge to encourage the city to become more dementia friendly.

It became apparent that some people with dementia – and their carers – had lost confidence in rail travel, even though it's hugely beneficial to them. I knew there were things we could do to help, so I set up a ‘supported travel day’ so that anyone living with dementia could come to York and take a short journey with us. The idea was that it’d build confidence and encourage them to travel by train again. Darlington dementia

Since then we’ve run more supported journeys with other groups who help persons with dementia in partnership with our local train operating companies. We meet the group and familiarize them with the station – doing the things that can really help such as showing them the location of the ticket office, lifts, toilets and customer enquiry desk. We give them details of how to book ‘passenger assist’ and they’re then escorted by officers and volunteers on their journey. Our 61016 text cards are given out and the role of British Transport Police officers explained during the journey.

But I also realised we needed to go further than that: rail staff and other officers needed some dementia awareness training, so that when they do come across a person living with dementia who has become disorientated at the station we’re all ready to help.

Patience is sometimes needed so that the person can gather their thoughts without being hurried. Sometimes being taken to a quiet place where the member of rail staff or officer can allow the person to feel relaxed and calm can sometimes allow them to recall who they are and where they are from – it all helps someone with dementia to use the station and keep their independence.

The future’s all about leading by example; many more officers in York and our surrounding stations have taken the awareness training, and who knows how far it’ll take us next?


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