Following her diagnosis of early-onset vascular dementia, Chris Maddocks discovered a new-found confidence through volunteering with St Wilfrid’s.

In 2016, Chris suffered three strokes and was diagnosed with early-onset dementia, having not long turned 60. ‘That devastated me,’ she said. ‘I went home and cried for three months, because I thought I had been given a death sentence.’

Chris later decided to contact Alzheimer’s Society, who encouraged her to attend the Society’s Live Well programme, which she described as a ‘real lifesaver.’

The Society helped to rebuild Chris’s confidence, which then led to her applying to become a Host Volunteer on the hospice’s Inpatient Unit in the summer of last year.

‘I was worried I wouldn’t even get an interview: there is still a stigma around dementia, but I talked openly about my diagnosis and was listened to. I have been offered additional support to carry out my role, but I haven’t needed it yet.’

Staff and other volunteers have already started to notice a huge difference in Chris’s sense of confidence and independence, and she has been invited to run some ‘Dementia Friends’ sessions to increase awareness of her diagnosis among St Wilfrid’s volunteers.

In May, Chris, and staff from the hospice and Alzheimer’s Society presented her experiences as a hospice volunteer living with dementia at the International Conference on Palliative Dementia Care in Belfast.

As she said: ‘It was nerve-wracking but a privilege to be asked; a bit like it’s a privilege working at St Wilfrid’s - everyone appreciates you - staff and patients alike.

'I find it very rewarding helping people at the end of life. I feel like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon; I went from feeling useless to feeling useful.’