British Gas worker recognised as landmark dementia friend
Thursday 28th September 2017 @ 11:04 by Adam Higgins
Dukinfield Longdendale News

A woman from Dukinfield has spoken of her pride in being recognised by British Gas as the company’s 20,000th Dementia Friend. 

Rachel Gregory is one of more than 20,000 people who work for the national energy supplier who have received dementia awareness sessions to help support customers living with the condition.

The 24-year-old is particularly passionate about being a Dementia Friend as she has first-hand experience of the impact dementia can have on a family.

Her own grandmother sadly passed away in 2009, after living with dementia for five years, during which Rachel also helped to care for her.

Rachel, who works in customer service at the British Gas contact centre in Hattersley, helps customers who need extra support, including those living with dementia, with a range of services including help with managing energy bills.

Since becoming a Dementia Friend, Rachel has found that it is easier for help to provide assistance to customers.

“When you’re a Dementia Friend, you become aware of all the little things that you can do to help people,” she said.

“I wish I’d known what I know now when my grandmother was alive. It would have made things easier at times to understand how she was feeling.

“I’m here to help offer customers reassurance that things are okay, when they call us, and that someone’s there to listen to them and to help. I get a real sense of satisfaction leaving work at the end of the day knowing that I’ve made the slightest difference to someone.”

Rachel also explained how dementia can impact a whole family, not just a customer.

“I recently supported a family whose mum was living with dementia,” she added. “Balancing their finances while paying for carers was proving a real struggle, but I was able to put in place a payment plan that worked for them. That was one way we could help straight away.

“I also found a local Alzheimer’s Society drop in session that the mum could attend and I still regularly talk to her daughter. She was so grateful for the support – it’s made a big difference to all the family.”

Friendly face: Rachel Gregory, from Dukinfield, is the 20,000th Dementia Friend for British Gas who has experienced first-hand the challenges of dementia

Rachel hopes that more people will be more aware that there’s help on hand.

She said: “Having first-hand experience at work and at home of dementia, I want to see greater awareness raised around the condition. I’d encourage any customer of a loved one of a customer living with dementia to contact us to find out how we can help.”

British Gas is also working with the Alzheimer’s Society to encourage families, friends and carers of customers living with dementia to contact their energy company if they are concerned about the energy account of their loved ones this winter. 

British Gas, which serves 10 million homes, estimates that around 100,000 customers are living alone in their homes with dementia. This equates to one in every 100 households the company serves. However, they believe many more customers are also supporting loved ones living with the condition.

In Greater Manchester, more than 1,000 people working at three British Gas sites are now Dementia Friends. This includes around 400 employees at British Gas contact centres at Hattersley and at Talbot Road and a further 600 people at Stockport.

The Dementia Friends programme helps staff to understand the challenges people with dementia may face – whether customers or their own friends and family – and how they can better support them.