..Thanks for the memories.. an Article From Croeso
Remembering together: support for dementia suffers and their carers
When Vicar Viv Parkinson reopened his refurbished church hall just over a year ago, he was adamant that it had to be used as much as possible by the community.
But he had no idea that within a few months the revamped hall would prove to be such a lifeline as a meeting place for a new support group set up for dementia sufferers and their carers.
Viv had simply wanted the hall in the centre of Llantrisant with its modern new kitchen and new toilets to be used by the people in the local area that had helped to raise the £150,000 needed for the makeover.
Now in addition to regular use by a range of community groups such as Brownies and various craft groups, the hall is home to a fortnightly meeting of the Llantrisant Parish Support Group – a new group set up nine months ago for those living with dementia and their carers.
“It is the best thing that I have ever done in my ministry,” said Revd Viv Parkinson, who has been a priest for twenty years.
“This group is as much for the carers as those living with these conditions. Everyone loves coming here and it is a really happy group. When people arrive they might be a bit down in the dumps but they will chat to others who understand what they are going through and by the time they leave, they are boosted right back up,” said Viv.
“The church is always open so they might take half an hour out to go and sit in the church by themselves as they know they can leave their partner or family member here in the knowledge that they will be safe and cared for.
“People come from all over the surrounding area and they say it has made such a difference to their lives already. It's basically a social club with activities that stimulate and it’s as much for the carers as it is for those living with the condition.”
The group runs on the first and third Wednesday of every month from 11am to 2.30pm – offering a range of activities such as puzzles, colouring, crafts and games. Singing sessions are often held and visiting speakers attend to give talks. Hot drinks are available and people are invited to bring a packed lunch.
In addition to voluntary support from parishioners who attend, professionals from the Memory Clinic at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital and the chaplain for the elderly also attend the sessions to give advice and information.
People can pop in for half an hour or stay for the whole session – they can come alone or they can bring the person whom they care for along with them. Since opening it has gone from strength to strength with up to 35 people now attending its fortnightly meetings.
“We get referrals from the Memory Team at the local hospital and from within the parish,” said Viv.
“Some carers come by themselves and some come with their partners who are all at different stages of dementia. There is always at least one professional on hand and quite a few of the helpers from the parish have family or friends living with dementia.”
“What we are doing here could easily be replicated in other parishes – support for people living with dementia is so scarce and I think in the future that there may be more reliance on groups like ours.”
“Coming here is a real tonic”
Sue Owen, 67, from Talbot Green, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, attends the support group twice a month.
She said, “This group is great as it offers me the opportunity to get out and socialise with other people. At home I am by myself and even though I like to get out, I do not go out with my other friends now as I do not feel comfortable – I get mixed up and I tire very easily.
“But this is how I am now, this is my life and so I find it easier to be with people who are the same as me and having the same experiences. Because everyone here is the same it means that I don’t get stressed which is lovely.
“This group makes a huge difference to my life as it gives me something to look forward to. I meet up with my friends, do some activities, have a chat and generally have some fun.”
Maria Warhurst who attends the group with her husband said, “This group gives us a break as we meet up with other people who are going through the same thing – I can chat to other wives who are also caring for their husbands. Coming here is a real tonic – it really gives us a boost.
“It gives us a great opportunity to get out of the house. Our husbands are here but sometimes they might sit on another table so we can see them and know they are safe but we are able to have a little break and chat to our friends.
“This group is making such a huge difference to our lives.”
Kath Hext who also attends the group with her husband said that she was not able to go out with her husband that much anymore other than shopping once or twice a week.
“I really look forward to Wednesdays – it’s great to have somewhere to go and some friends to chat to when I get here. This group is marvellous – I wouldn’t be without it now,” said Kath.
Another carer is Wendy Field who attends the group with her mother-in-law Joyce Field, 91.
“Mum lives with us and I am her carer so this group offers us a chance to get out of the house, have a change of scene and meet up with other people.
“Mum loves doing jigsaw puzzles and they have lots here for her to do and even though I sit with her, it gives me a bit of break as I’m able to have a chat with other people at the same time.
“We both enjoy some of the other activities like the crafts and the singing and it’s a really nice outing for us both.”Joyce said, “I don’t like being on my own so it’s nice to come here and meet everyone – we both enjoy the singing and I like doing the puzzles
The article first appeared in the Llandaff Diocean Publication " Croeso and is used with permission