Cleaner turned dementia campaigner to be honoured with British Citizen Award

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Speaking with, Nicolas detailed his journey into health and social work after moving to Britain from Mauritius. After becoming a British Citizen he quickly worked his way up, becoming the youngest UK Care Home Manager and is currently continuing his passion for dementia and Alzheimer’s awareness and research in the UK by undertaking a PhD in the subject. When asked about his motivations for joining the social care industry and caring for the elderly in particular, Nicolas shared that it all began after he noticed the first symptoms of his grandad’s Alzheimer’s when he was 16.

“My grandad was waking up at like three o’clock in the morning and doing his own routine, very confused. But in Mauritius back in 2004 they didn’t really have dementia healthcare like they do in the UK.

“So [doctors] were saying it was just old age. Eventually he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and then he passed away.”

With such a personal experience of the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia causing a lasting impact, it wasn’t until Nicolas moved to the UK in 2006 and found himself struggling to get a job alongside studying that he first got a job in a care home.

He continued to explain: “One of my sister’s friend’s uncle was a manager in a care home, but he told me I was too young to apply as a carer so to apply instead as a cleaner. And that was my first job as a 19-year-old. I had never done any sort of job in my life.”

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Working 20-hours at a time every Saturday and Sunday in order to juggle his accountancy studies Nicolas went on to explain how a cleaning position soon turned into a caring position.

“Every Saturday and Sunday I would really look forward to going and cleaning the care home. I met so many residents every weekend and one day they were short of staff so they told me ‘Nicolas you are going to be a carer’.

“Since that day I started my journey in care and I have been doing that for the last 16 years now. I became a carer, then a team leader and I became manager in 2015. At that time I was manager of the first care home to be awarded Outstanding by the Care Quality Commission.”

In addition to managing and supporting the staff of his current care home in Romford, Essex, Nicolas decided that this wasn’t enough and started to fundraise for dementia charities by running marathons.

In total he has run nine marathons for Alzheimer’s Research and Alzheimer’s Society, not choosing to stop even when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, instead doing a virtual marathon in which he raised £700.

When asked how tough training and running for marathons is Nicolas responded: “The first time I did it I was knackered. In the pictures from the website I look so tired. But then I started to work with a personal trainer and we trained two to three times a week three months before the marathon.

“The one I am really proud of is the one I did during lockdown as I didn’t want to let Alzheimer’s Research down. So I told my personal trainer Oliver that I would still do it and even with social distancing he was training me in the park.

“For me, when I run a marathon I am representing a charity. When I am running I don’t put my name down I put Alzheimer Research and that is what makes me most proud. Now through the years it has become a habit. My family and my partner are very supportive and it has become a pattern in my life to run marathons.”

The incredible fundraising work Nicolas continues to do has not gone unnoticed within his local area, as he remains the youngest trustee of Age UK Enfield and is a volunteer for the China Exchange Charity. The philanthropist has also won awards in sector specific areas such as National Dementia Inspiring Leader in 2017 and the Dementia Care Awards in 2019.

Amongst it all, when asked what his proudest moment to date Nicolas refers to the BCA medal he is receiving on Thursday saying that he wasn’t expecting to be honoured in this way.

He added: “I feel very proud to be a British citizen. But to also represent Mauritius with something this big. My mum is very proud, all of my family are very proud.

“I am trying to encourage other people to follow in my path and to spend time with charities and to fundraise and so on as there are not a lot of people who will donate their time to charities.”

Alongside encouraging others to spend time and donate to charity like he has dedicated a large part of his life doing, Nicolas is also aiming to complete his PhD in order to try and fulfil his lifetime goal of writing a book about dementia.

“I have always wanted to write about dementia and also to support family members and those living with early dementia. What I have been told by my tutor is that in the UK, compared to America, there is a lack of studies. Most of the articles, journals and research is in America, Australia or Europe.

When asked what is next for his fundraising attempts, Nicolas has set himself new heights as he is facing his fears in order to try and complete a skydive in the name of charity. He finished by saying: “One of my biggest phobias is height. But one day I really want to push myself mentally and do a skydive for charity. I have always wanted to do it but I am so scared of heights!”

The BCA medal presentation will be hosted on July 7 by TV news presenter Naga Munchetty, and attended by BCA Patron Dame Mary Perkins, Founder of Specsavers, and The Rt Hon, Lord Dholakia.

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