This month we celebrate the work of Pam Ollis, our Community Services Coordinator for North Wiltshire. Pam has led Music for the Mind groups in Chippenham and Malmesbury, Movement for the Mind in Chippenham and the town's memory cafe, art groups in Chippenham and Bradenstoke, carers' support groups and several Muddy Boots groups. With more than a decade's commitment to Alzheimer’s Support, she shares her experiences and memories in her own words.

Tell us something about your early life and career history

When I went to university I wrote my dissertation on the 1990 Community Care Act and the effect it had on carers. This led to me interviewing carers (including my gran who looked after my grandad with dementia) and sparked an interest. However, when I finished university I ended up working in computer technical support, which was well paid but the worst job ever for me!

Luckily, when I moved to Lincolnshire in 2006 I started a job with the Alzheimer’s Society as a carer support worker and when I moved back to Wiltshire I got a job with Alzheimer’s Society as a group coordinator. I moved across to Alzheimer’s Support and the rest is history. I have been doing the same job for 13 years and have no idea where the time has gone! 

What do you find most rewarding about your job?

I love my job because I’m out and about all the time at different groups and work with the most amazing team of volunteers and colleagues who have become good friends, many of whom I have known for years and years.  Our aim is to enable our members to come along and have a good time, to have a chat, to sing, to exercise, to create art, to be entertained but ultimately to come out smiling, knowing they are not alone.

So many of our group members are inspiring and have an interesting story to tell and we are the lucky ones who get to listen. 

What advice would you give to a new member of staff?

Get to know your volunteers really well, they are the key to running a successful group. Make time to chat to your members and always listen more than you talk.  Always have a plan B (just in case) when running groups and don’t ever run out of biscuits or cake! 

Can you tell us about any special moments that stand out for you

There have been so many over the years! I really enjoyed hosting the author Wendy Mitchell at a conference in Trowbridge a few years ago, she is such an inspiration to people affected by dementia. Lots of proper laughing with my volunteers, the joy of Movement for the Mind sessions, dancing at Music for the Mind, doing silly quizzes, hearing incredible stories of people’s lives and their achievements.

Turning difficult situations at carers groups into positive actions (or just laughing together about it), and realising that health and family are so important to everyone and should never be taken for granted.