What I do: Katie Nichol
Encouraging and training others to become dementia friends
My name is Katie Nichol. I have been part of the Dementia project management team for the London Clinical Networks since they were established in 2013. As I’d spent the majority of my NHS career in cancer services, I was extremely happy to focus on improving dementia care through this new area of work.
Soon after starting my role at the network I visited a variety of dementia healthcare services across the capital. I wanted to get a comprehensive understanding of these services that patients use on a daily basis, both from a healthcare professional’s view (what it is like on the front line running these services) and from a patient’s view (with insight into the diagnosis and treatment journey). I also visited a dementia café in east London where I had the pleasure of meeting people with dementia and their carers. I realised I had a relatively negative perception about dementia and thought the impact on living life is devastating. I remember speaking to a lady in her 80s. She told me about her time working at Melton Mowbray Pork Pie factory. Her story was so interesting and fascinating; I noticed the joy on her face telling her story. I realised, that despite the challenges, people with dementia can live well and there is more to a person than a diagnosis of dementia.
This led me to support the national Dementia Friends initiative as well as train to become a Dementia Friends Champion to deliver information sessions on dementia. To date, I have got 200 dementia friends involved.
I am also very passionate on mental health and mental wellness. In 2014, my sister tragically died. Following her death, I developed mild anxiety and panic attacks. I felt no shame in contacting my local Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service for support. I also participated in an online mindfulness course, which I found extremely beneficial in helping me to relax and manage my thoughts and feelings, along with taking part in a mindfulness practice offered by NHS England. I firmly believe in the benefit of exercise in improving the mind too and am very passionate on physical fitness, clocking in at least three fitness classes each week.