Day centres for older people and people with dementia are available in each district of Lancashire. The Withy Trees Day Centre in Preston, run by Age Concern, is a lifeline for Norma Kirby, who is able to carry out everyday tasks while husband Barry, who has vascular dementia, is at the centre.
While he is there, for full days three days a week, he is supervised painting, playing dominoes and reminiscing with key workers. Norma was introduced to the service by Age Concern staff working alongside medical professionals at the memory clinic in Charnley Fold, Bamber Bridge.
Work to refurbish the centre has been recently carried out to make it more airy, with a new garden and patio area, pictures and calming colours. “It’s been done by people with dementia, for people with dementia”, said Roger Jones, executive director of services at Age Concern. “It’s a legacy they’re leaving behind for people coming in the future. “The men like to work, they’ve done it all their life. They want to go home with soil in their nails. They’re proud to have made a difference.” He added: “There is a perception that people come and sit on comfy chairs and watch telly. “But it’s about capturing and retaining skills. I call it capturing passions. Everyone has a passion – a man at 80 sees a stone and will still try to kick it and score a goal. These things don’t leave you and we try to capture these passions in as many activities as possible.”
Age Concern run Withy Trees and an enhanced day care centre in Charnley Fold with closer ratios of staff for people with greater needs and a history of aggression. Roger said: “Come and have a look at what it’s like. We have capacity and we need to fill our day centres. We have free taster sessions. “We don’t want these to be a secret, they’re lovely place to go. They make such a difference, and it provides respite for the carers. They know a loved one is in a safe place and having a great time. “In that way it’s a bit like an adult nursery. You get some life back when they are there, and it gives people peace of mind.” People can self-refer to the day centres and although there is a cost involved in using them, this is done on a case-by-case basis depending on council funding.
Staff also work closely with UCLan social care students who do placements at the centres. And with more and more people affected by dementia – the figures expected to reach 22,000 in Lancashire by 2025, Age Concern want to open more centres – if existing centres are used to their full capacity. Roger said: “There’s a ripple effect. We say that 15,000 people are living with dementia in Lancashire, but that’s just the people diagnosed. What about the husbands and wives and close family? The neighbours who are helping and keeping an eye out? “As we grow older, there is a growing need to offer more support for older people, particularly those with memory problems. “We used to talk about people having lost their marbles, but we know more now and it’s assessed with more knowledge. “It’s not accepted as a part of growing old now. It can be to do with lifestyle or your genetic makeup, there is a particular reason it’s happening.”
Age Concern have a Community Links team help people stay at home for as long as possible, keep them engaging in community events and talking to like-minded people. One elderly woman who came to the team’s attention hadn’t left home for six months, and eventually enough trust was built up with her that she started walking to the end of the road and back and is now enrolled on a craft session.
The charity is also working with businesses to help them understand the problems of dementia, and to encourage their staff to become Dementia Aware. Among initiatives is giving a coin chart to people working on checkouts, so that customers with dementia are able to work out which coins they need and not deskilling by giving a pocketfull of change to the cashier and asking them to get the right money. Roger said: “Dementia touches one in three, so that’s everyone, basically. We want businesses to be more understanding, for staff and customers. “We’re not asking them to swap around all their shop’s layout, but think about things like black floor mats. People with dementia might see that as a black hole, and who wants to step into a black hole? “Some people with dementia also hear voices in their head, so loud music in shops might make it more confusing for them.”
For a free taster session at Age Concern’s Withy Trees centre, call 01772 717763.
Find out more online at https://www.ageisjustanumber.org.uk/services/dementia-services