FIGHTING back tears, Caroline Dearson speaks with pride at setting up a support network for people suffering with dementia and their families.

The scheme is called Dementia Buddies, run by the Benfleet-based Mickey Payne Memorial Foundation and South Essex Partnership Trust.

Mum-of-two Caroline, 54, set up the foundation with her brother Mark Payne and sister Leslie Huntley in memory of their dad, Mickey, who died from vascular dementia in 2010.

She says: “It’s really overwhelming, I can’t believe it’s happening. If it had been in place before it would have really helped dad.

“I can’t understand how it’s not been done before, I used to get so angry but our motto is turning negatives to positives and the buddies is a big positive, it will be such a special service.”

The buddies scheme is entirely voluntary and involves people giving up their time to get to know dementia sufferers so they can be there when family and friends are not around.

Volunteers will be able to visit them a few times a week, which can be outside of visiting hours, to ensure patients are treated respect and their dignity is protected.

Caroline believes a scheme like Dementia Buddies could have been a real benefit to her father, who was 78 when he lost his 18-month battle with the disease.

The family had serious concerns about the care he received while in two care homes, which they have asked the Echo not to name, including staff not giving him drugs prescribed to control his aggression, poor standards of hygiene care and personal grooming, and one incident when care home staff left him for several hours after he broke his hip.

They were also concerned about the lack of awareness of dementia in hospitals, which got Caroline thinking about how things could be improved.

She says: “Dementia needs someone to fight its corner.

“I started to think about the buddies when I was up at the hospital with dad. They can get to know the person and their families, their likes and dislikes, which can take the pressure off the family if they are away or can’t get there straight away.

“Two or three buddies will be dedicated to one person so they will get to know them quite well. It will be in the interest of the person with dementia, they will have a face they recognise and see.

“The buddies will have thief own committee with our input and there will always be someone they can pick the phone up to, their interests will be paramount too.”

The buddies will be specifically designated so the person with dementia so they can strike up a trusting relationship with them. Training and CRB checks will be carried out by Sept, which says the buddies will be “fully supported”.

If you are interested in becoming a buddie or would like more information about how to get involved, e-mail or

Alternatively call Caroline on 07539 567553.