Featured Project – May 2014 – John Coleman


John Coleman, Public Health Nurse, Dalkey, Co Dublin

As a Public Health Nurse I strongly advocate for people with dementia. I have spoken to local publicans and Garda and other community service providers in the area on the issue of dementia.  I have offered hours of support to families to assist them in implementing a support structure of care that is individualised to suits the person needs. My work with ‘Living well with Dementia’ Genio Project in Stillorgan/ Blackrock has further enhanced my understanding of dementia and my role as a Dementia Nurse Champion.

My change project with the Dementia Champions course in DCU was on the Importance of Friendship for People with Dementia.

The Importance of Friendship for people with Dementia Presentation – Dementia – The Importance of Friendship



Transcript of Interview

What was the problem you were trying to address with your project?

When people are diagnosed with dementia, looking at research, the common practice is that friends would disappear from their lives. So my main aim was to reactivate these friends back into these people’s lives.

What was your vision for how it should be?

My vision was that things should never have changed. These people should have continued being friends but again looking at the research… a lot of people’s attitudes, and just not understanding what dementia was about and how to care for somebody with dementia and communicate with them, seemed to be the problem.

So my goal was to reactivate these friends back into their lives by approaching them and giving them a little bit of education and support on how to communicate with people with dementia.

What did you do?

Being a Public Health Nurse working in the community you become known to your area. I was known to this particular lady, (the friend of person with dementia) over a short period of time. I discovered that this lady had taken this individual with dementia to bridge classes on a weekly basis in the past and this had been stopped simply because of the diagnosis of dementia. The lady with dementia herself had a goal– to go back playing bridge.

So basically because I was known to this person and the information I found out, I just confronted the lady, knocked on the door and had a chat with her and explained to her about her friend’s situation.

So it ended up that she went back into her life and because they had known each other for thirty years, they had so many ‘good old days’ stories, and reminiscence and just talking about the past. This has such value for people with dementia –and is one of their fundamental needs. The other aspect was that this lady went back playing bridge and that seemed to work very well.

What was the overall outcome? 

The overall outcome was positive because this lady went back playing bridge.

The other good thing was that she could still play bridge and play it very well and was still winning, and I think that really highlighted the importance of friends in people’s lives, not looking at the dementia and seeing the person.  It was very educational for me as I was learning as I was going and it really highlighted that you must see the person not the dementia.