Top honour awaits dedicated volunteer

Barbara  Dow from Amble.
Barbara Dow from Amble.

An Amble woman has won a prestigious volunteering award from the Alzheimer’s Society due to her inspirational work for the charity following the death of her husband.

Barbara Dow has been spurred on to make a difference over the last five years after being left unhappy with the care that her husband, who had Alzheimer’s disease, received during the last months of his life.

Al Dow from Amble.

Al Dow from Amble.

In recognition of her efforts, Mrs Dow will travel to the House of Lords on Tuesday, where she will be presented with a William Brooks Award by Alzheimer’s Society supporter, Sir Michael Parkinson.

The William Brooks Awards are presented annually to exceptional Alzheimer’s Society volunteers. Winners are nominated by fellow volunteers, staff or members of the public.

Mrs Dow, who is one of seven individuals across the country to be selected for the accolade, said she was proud.

“I felt really shocked when I first heard I was to be honoured by the Alzheimer’s Society but it is wonderful,” she added.

She has been an Alzheimer’s Society volunteer for five years. She originally became involved following the loss of her husband, Al, a former RAF Vulcan pilot and flying instructor.

She was concerned and affected by the care that he received in a care home and in hospital and joined the Acute Care Working Group which produced the leaflet This Is Me – intended to provide professionals with information about the patient to enhance the care and support given.

Following a complaint Mrs Dow made about the care her husband received in hospital, she was asked to write about her and her husband’s experiences following his diagnosis.

This resulted in a booklet called Al’s Story which forms the basis for Mrs Dow’s talks with health professionals. She has been invited to speak at conferences, to doctors, consultants and nurses. She feels it is vital that hospital staff know patients’ backgrounds.

Mrs Dow said: “I enjoy trying to make a difference. I’m reasonably fit so I will only put my feet up when all the nurses and doctors and people generally know more about the illness itself and people with dementia are treated with kindness and generosity wherever they go.”

Mrs Dow was nominated by Susan Small, a dementia support worker who is based at the Alzheimer’s Society’s Morpeth office. She described Mrs Dow as an ‘inspiration’, who was determined to make a difference.