Award nomination for one of our volunteers

We’re thrilled that one of our amazing volunteers has been shortlisted for an award for the work she does to support people living with dementia in Blackpool.

Jenny Fitzsimmons started volunteering after losing her husband in July 2021. She decided to use her experience of dementia to help other people going through similar experiences.

She said: “I was a carer first for my mum who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2007, and then my husband following his diagnoses of dementia in 2017.

“Over the years, I have learned a lot. I found that you can cope with all the practical parts of caring but the hardest part was that feeling of isolation and loneliness.

 “When my husband passed away, I had two options; I could sit and feel sorry for myself, or I could get out there and do something. I chose the second option.”

Shortly afterwards, Jenny started volunteering at Blackpool Carers’ Centre, and then took up a role here at the hospice supporting our Admiral Nurse, Maxine.

She says her work has inspired her to open her own dementia café.

“When my husband was alive, we couldn’t find anywhere that was suitable for both of us,” she said. “Somewhere he would be safe and comfortable and where I could relax for an hour or so.

“Dementia cafés are wonderful places that look after the person living with dementia as well as their carer. Ours has specialist puzzles and dominos so those who have dementia can make friends as well.

“We’re harnessing the magical power of music and singing, which is a really touching way of supporting people living with dementia. We’ve included movement too, so sing songs like One Finger One Thumb and the Grand Old Duke of York.

“When someone doesn’t move well, or doesn’t communicate well through their illness, but they are able to get up and start marching or start singing to a song they knew and loved years ago – everyone has a lump in their throat.”

Jenny’s Forget Me Not Dementia Café meets on Wednesdays at Marton United Reform Church, and has been so successful she’s opened another one at Embrace on Whitegate Drive, Blackpool, which meets on Mondays.

She said: “It’s wonderful to see people making friends at our dementia café. They come and chat and swap numbers, and I know they’ve built a new support network with people who understand what it is like to live with dementia.”

Because of her commitment to supporting people living with dementia in Blackpool and across the Fylde coast, Jenny has been nominated by the hospice for BBC Radio Lancashire’s Make a Difference Awards Carer Award.

Jenny has shown incredible passion to help people who are in a similar situation to one she has been in, drawing on her experiences to make things easier for them.

Her café has gone from strength to strength, which is testament to her efforts and shows the difference she is making. That’s why we were honoured to nominate her for the Make a Difference Awards.”

The awards were due to be held earlier in September but were postponed after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Jenny said: “When I found out that not only had Maxine nominated me, but I’d been shortlisted to the final I couldn’t believe it. I just laughed! How can I be nominated for doing something that I love? But it’s my chance to make more people aware of our work to support people living with dementia and their carers.”

To find out more about Jenny’s dementia cafes, or other local support for people living with dementia across the Fylde coast, click here.