Using social investment to support people with dementia | Big Society Capital

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Using social investment to support people with dementia

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I spent seven years looking after my mum before she died. Caring for someone with dementia is a lot harder than most people realise. I often felt lost and overwhelmed by the task ahead and soon realised I had to find new ways to keep Mum busy and give her a sense of purpose, otherwise she’d spend all day staring at the TV.

But there are no shops on the high street selling products for people living with dementia, so my family and I had to buy everyday products that were the closest thing to what we were looking for. It didn’t always work but gradually we started to discover a few products that really made a difference. For example, Mum really loved cooking but it was becoming too dangerous for her until we managed to find some Kevlar cut-resistant gloves from a chicken factory. Those gloves enabled her to continue cooking for another three years.

After my mum died, I was convinced that somebody needed to connect great products with the people that really need them. I realised that there are thousands of products that could really make a difference so I founded Unforgettable to bring together all the things I wish I knew about when I was caring for Mum.

We’ve put together all of the most useful products that can help with every stage of dementia, whether it’s GPS insoles to help you track someone that’s gone wandering, time-orientation clocks to help the person with dementia know what time of day it is or home monitoring systems to help someone caring for a loved one know how they’re doing when they’re not near the house. We provide good, clear information, advice, and a community which supports the discovery of new products, all of which can make life a bit easier and more enjoyable, too.

When I started Unforgettable, I knew that going to a bank with a business proposition like mine would have been too costly. We’re selling thousands of products, many of which are low margin. I didn’t want to have to focus on high margin products, I didn’t want to have a bank looking over my shoulder saying “We’ve lent you money”. I wanted an investor to sit alongside me saying “We buy into your vision, we get the risks and the benefits and we want to work with you for the benefit of your customers.” In Bridges Ventures and Impact Ventures UK, I’ve found exactly that.

Our aim over the next three years is to reach 10% of the population with dementia. That’s 85,000 people. We don’t just sell products through the website, we follow up with people afterwards to make sure that what they bought does what they wanted it to do. It’s really important for us to make sure we are really addressing the challenges faced by people with dementia and those that care for them. We also know that our customers don’t need to pay VAT on products so we work hard with our suppliers to make this possible and provide a 20 per cent discount, which represents a big saving – and it’s something many other websites don’t offer.

I passionately believe there is plenty of life to be lived with dementia, and I hope Unforgettable will make it easier for people to do so.

Last updated | 
8 January 2016

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