As we come to the end of Dementia Awareness Week, Neil remembers how our current activities for people with dementia, carers and family members started:
It was two years ago, in May 2020, that I happened to meet a couple who I had last seen when they were attending the Alzheimers Society dementia café. Now, however, like everything else, the first lock-down had forced it to close. “Great to see you!” I said, “How are you getting on?”.
I don’t remember the exact response, but something along the lines of “Pulling my hair out”, “Climbing the walls”, or “Going slowly bonkers” probably gives the right sort of idea!
You see, “Stay social, stay active!” is some of the most common advice given to people on receiving a diagnosis of dementia. Sitting at home staring at the same four walls is not great for anyone, but is particularly detrimental for those living with dementia. It really is important to get out, to mingle with others, to preserve existing relationships and build new ones, and to keep physically and mentally active. All this helps improve both immediate quality of life and long-term health prospects.
But just how are you supposed to do that when being told “You MUST stay at home“, when all social contact was effectively forbidden, and when any existing activities or support programmes were stopped? On top of this, all the unknowns surrounding Covid-19 created such a climate of fear that we became naturally cautious about contact of any kind with other people.
It was then that we started playing table tennis just one morning a week. Government Covid-19 regulations allowed us to meet with a small support group of this kind in a well ventilated space and table tennis had been one of their favourite activities pre-pandemic, so it was a natural choice. Indoor bowls soon followed, both offering the chance to remain “social and active”. There was no great plan, just a simple act that could improve life for a couple of people – but that became, in the words of one, “a real life-saver”.
Our indoor bowls group now meets every Thursday morning and people of all skill levels – or none! – are welcome. It is also a time when carers or family members can catch up and see some of their own needs met. The dementia café meets monthly, generally the last Friday of the month, and hosts a great variety of activities or input, as well as the chance to signpost towards other resources or sources of support. The groups also organise occasional outings, with a couple being planned for the coming months.
We are immensely glad that these small acts can make a big difference to people living with dementia. You are welcome to join us – do contact us if you want any more details – and we are always happy to hear suggestions of other ways in which we could serve people living with dementia. But whether with us or elsewhere, whatever you do, stay social, and stay active x
(Attendance at these activities is free; donations are accepted towards their cost.)