To mark Dementia Action Week, we're raising awareness of the daily struggles faced by people living with dementia, and encouraging customers living with dementia and those who care for them to find out about the extra support we can offer.
We believe there are at least 100,000 British Gas customers living alone in their own homes with dementia – one in every 100 households we serve.
It’s our mission to ensure that people with dementia and those who care for them have access to the support they need.
Spreading the word within British Gas and out in the community is a network of more than 50 specially-trained Dementia Champions. We caught up with some of them to find out more.
Why did you become a Dementia Champion?
John Collier is based in Cardiff
“I looked after both my elderly parents when they were living with dementia. I saw first-hand what they were going through and in 2016, when British Gas announced it was going to become a dementia-friendly organisation, I was one of the first to sign up.
“Supporting people with dementia is a cause very close to my heart, and I find it incredibly rewarding. I give talks in the local area to share best practice, and I visit a nearby nursing home to play the piano to the residents. It's a privilege to be able to make a difference to people's lives, and I love to see them smile.”
What's your favourite part of being a Dementia Champion?
Amie Harding is based in Staines
“I feel a huge sense of pride when I think about what we've achieved as an organisation. I was involved in setting up the British Gas Dementia Friends programme in 2016, and I could never have predicted how big it would become. Today, more than two thirds of our workforce have become Dementia Friends - that's more than 20,000 people.
“Everyone knows someone who's affected by dementia, which means we get such emotional responses to the dementia awareness sessions we run. When people come up and thank me after a session, and tell me about their personal experiences, I know I'm doing something that really matters.”
How do you get involved in the local community?
Keira Whitlock is based in Chandlers Ford
“We love it when organisations get in touch and ask us to run a Dementia Friends session for them. I’ve visited two local Scout groups recently and it’s fantastic to see young people taking an interest. We also open our doors once a month and invite the local community in to see us. The more people that become Dementia Friends in our local area, the better we can all look after each other.
“I took part in Dem Fest last year - an event run by Romsey Dementia Action Group. It was an amazing chance for people living with dementia to find out about all the services available to them, and to feel truly supported by the local community.”
What happens when someone with dementia phones British Gas?
Beverley Dixon is based in Hattersley
“Some customers tell us they are living with dementia when they call - especially if they're in the early stages. This means we can support them as their symptoms develop and put measures in place to help.
“For customers who don’t tell us they are living with dementia, we've been trained to pick up triggers in the conversation. If we think something's wrong, we can find out if there's a family member, friend, or carer we can work with to make things easier for everyone.”
How can British Gas help customers who are living with dementia?
Tracey Bennett is based in Hattersley
“I lead the Customer Care team, and our job is to proactively contact customers who are struggling to manage their energy and to see how we can help. We have over 2.6 million accounts on our Priority Services Register, which gives them access to special support. We're happy to phone vulnerable customers every month to talk through their bills, and can arrange extra services like free gas safety checks and help with meter readings.
We can also speak to a nominated friend or family member on a customer's behalf, to take some of the strain away. I'm excited to see how smart home technology could help safeguard vulnerable customers in the future, too.”
Click here to find out more about the Priority Services Register.