Volunteer Week Spotlight: Lorenzo De Franco – Educator, Mediator, and Advocate
Lorenzo has a genial and friendly demeanour about him, which serves him well during every presentation he makes as part of The Dementia Society’s Speakers Bureau. Everyone in attendance feels comfortable asking Lorenzo questions when his presentation is over, and often right in the middle of it. His understanding of dementia and the subject matter in his presentation instill confidence in his audience that the answers he provides will be accurate. But Lorenzo does much more than just educational presentations.
It’s the new volunteer role Lorenzo has played over the past year that he says has been most rewarding. In addition to giving talks Lorenzo is now a co-facilitator, with Dementia Care Coach Misia McCallum, of a caregiver support group. In this setting, he is able to help people on a one-to-one basis. His background is in mediation and conflict resolution, which comes in handy more often than one might think.
Lorenzo is proud to volunteer with The Dementia Society, and says: “In addition to being a great source of information, The Dementia Society has invaluable resources that [help] families make their journeys less painful. The hidden jewels at The Dementia Society are the dementia care coaches who [have] a lot of experience, knowledge and empathy in dealing with persons with dementia, their caregivers and their families. And to think that all these services are absolutely free!
Since Lorenzo retired from federal public service about a year ago, he has spent more time with his wife, which is wonderful. He has also spent more time volunteering, including as an elder mediator. And he has been able to do more with The Dementia Society, including the caregiver support group he finds so fulfilling.
With the Speakers Bureau, Lorenzo travels to businesses, community groups and retirement homes to educate people on dementia. He’s passionate about that education, impressing upon those groups that dementia is not just normal aging, but that it is the result of an illness that affects the brain. And because it’s an illness, like cancer or lupus, there should be no embarrassment around dementia, either for the person living with it or for those around them.
His every talk, and every interaction with someone in his support group, are informed by his time spent as a caregiver to both his own mother and his mother-in-law. He says he’s in a unique position to share those experiences, but that volunteering is not just for those who have a first-hand connection with dementia. Lorenzo’s advice is this:
“Take the plunge! Don’t think too much about it, volunteer! There are a lot of volunteer opportunities at the Dementia Society. Talk to someone at the Dementia Society about what your passion is and you will be directed to the appropriate volunteer opportunity. Do it!”