Keith Oliver honoured: Volunteer of the year

Keith honoured for work despite onset of dementia

By Canterbury Times, Thursday, May 02, 2013

“A FORMER primary school head teacher who was forced to step down through early onset dementia has won an award for inspiring others with the condition.

Keith Oliver, from Canterbury, won Volunteer of the Year at a ceremony hosted by Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust on Thursday, April 18, at Archery House, Dartford.

He was joined by KMPT Discharge Facilitator, Caroline Allchurch, who won the High Performance Award for her outstanding work with Older People’s Mental Health services, based in Canterbury.

Keith Oliver is a former head teacher of Blean Primary School, Canterbury, who was diagnosed with dementia on New Year’s Eve, 2010, aged 55.

In the last year Keith has worked on projects with the Trust to reduce the fear, prejudice and stigma often linked with dementia. Among numerous other activities, he meets with commissioners to champion dementia causes, speaks at conferences across the county and more recently took his message internationally.

Keith said: “To be acknowledged in this way gives me a great sense of strength. Being supported feels really positive, that the trust is behind the work that I’m attempting to do.

“This award is an impetus to not only reflect on the year but to go on and build for next year.”

Earlier this month he met with mental health professionals from Australia Alzheimer’s to share his experience and knowledge while on holiday in Adelaide.

Keith attended an international conference on dementia, met with renowned advocate Kate Swaffer and visited a hospital’s mental health unit to discuss innovations developed through his role as KMPT service user envoy.

He has been instrumental helping to set up a network of people diagnosed with dementia – the Forget Me Nots group.

Started in 2012, members of the group attend staff interview panels, review literature aimed at dementia patients and carers, and one member is being trained to assess ward care provision as seen through the eyes of a dementia patient.

“This is potentially a very powerful and helpful element that the Trust is adding to its armoury,” Keith said.

“People at Australia Alzheimer’s were interested in hearing about that because they haven’t got anything similar.

“It means more people are getting involved, which strengthens the notion that people with dementia can make a valuable contribution. If anything happens to me, it is important that there is a legacy after the work that has been done.”

In nominating Keith for the award, Older People’s Mental Health Service director, Jon Parsons, said: “If I’m ever diagnosed with dementia, I hope I can be as brave as he has chosen to be.”

Mrs Allchurch, from Chartham, has worked at KMPT for 27 years and is a qualified psychiatric nurse.

As discharge facilitator she ensures that admission and discharge processes operate as effectively as possible for older people’s services across Kent and Medway, co-ordinating where and when patients will be admitted for assessment and treatment.

Christine Holmes won the Partnership Award, based on the trust’s St Martin’s site, Canterbury. She has been recognised for her work with the Canterbury and Coastal Rethink Carers’ Support Group.”

Follow us: @thisiskent on Twitter

Note: Keith and I have become friends, and I’m looking forward to his visit to Adelaide soon. I found this post in my draft folder, and apologise to Keith for not highlighting this award at the time.

Congratulations Keith, we are all proud of you.



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