Zoey McClellan Interview

September 2014

zoey mcClellanZoey McClellan lives near Dundee with her husband, 11 year-old son and two pet pigs. She is a Social Work graduate from Robert Gordon University and has worked professionally with vulnerable people across a range of settings. In 2011 Zoey co-founded The Memory Box Network, a dementia-focused charity. She now manages the charity’s education project, which seeks to raise awareness of dementia in schools. The Memory Box Network’s other activities include the online reminiscence platform ourbigbox.com that aims to help people spend more time with loved ones who have dementia.

 

Q       How did you come to be working in the field of dementia care?
A       My professional background is in social work and I have a long-term interest in improving services for vulnerable groups. Then in 2011 I was involved in founding a dementia-focused charity, The Memory Box Network, which aims to improve the lives of people with dementia by providing families and carers with an online reminisce system www.ourbigbox.com

Q       How are you raising awareness of dementia?
A       One of the main roles that I have with The Memory Box Network is to manage our school project. We know from listening to teachers that dementia is a difficult topic to cover, so we have created a project that deals with this in a broad way to include memory, local heritage, reminiscing, relationships, and the benefits when generations communicate with each other. Our aim is to encourage social inclusion and try and break down the barriers that can prevent people talking.

Q       What is the most important reason for raising children’s awareness of dementia?
A       By introducing the topic of dementia at an early age it helps to raise awareness, and so reduce the stigma attached to dementia. With an ageing population, more children will experience a family member or friend with dementia. Equally, children will be the carers of the future and it’s important to initiate and inform those conversations now.

Q       What are your preferred resources for raising children’s awareness of dementia?
A       As part of our schools project it is imperative that we promote a wide range of different resources for teachers to use. There are many wonderful books, publications, website links and materials that teachers have found useful on our website.

Q       Have you read my book The Forgetful Elephant? Do you plan to incorporate it in your work?
A       I have read The Forgetful Elephant and I think it’s a lovely resource to introduce dementia to younger children. We have arranged for you to do some school visits as part of our project. The visits will happen this month and schools were extremely enthusiastic when we offered this opportunity.

Q       How would you say we can educate young children about dementia?
A       I have mentioned our schools project already but I think the most important thing is to get people talking about it, to familiarise children and adults who will increasingly hear the word in the media and community, and encourage everyone to help.

Q       If you had a magic wand (and unlimited funds), how would you raise awareness of dementia in the community?
A       That’s a great question but I’m sure others, such as Alzheimer Scotland, are better placed to answer it as they have a much broader perspective on the challenges and how best to meet them. Perhaps that is my answer, make sure fabulous organisations like Alzheimer Scotland are funded in a way that is commensurate with the massive impact that dementia is likely to have on our community.

Q       What sources of information and research about dementia do you follow?
A       As a charity we follow a huge range of amazing organisations that are involved with all aspects of dementia care and research. We do this through Facebook, Twitter and the internet.

Q       Which person or organisation do you consider to be a world leader in dementia care?
A       When you start looking into what is happening across the world there is innovation happening everywhere. I consider the teachers I work with to be world leaders, they take on what can be perceived as a difficult subject and I am blown away by how creative they are in how they embrace our project.

Q       How can we work together to raise children’s awareness of dementia?
A       Quite simply by bringing families and communities together and get people talking. We hope that ourbigbox.com can make a small contribution to achieving that end.