Dunblane dementia friendly group brings hope and friendship during COVID-19
"We have identified a real unmet need with many local elderly people living alone who are lonely and isolated."
Dunblane Development Trust, Dementia Friendly Group have been operating since January 2017. A weekly memory café is held at the Braeport Centre offering a safe place for individuals with dementia and their unpaid carer /family to meet, share information and socialise. A range of stimulating activities are provided ranging from local entertainers to chair based exercises. An enthusiastic team of volunteers are creative, reliable, generous, hardworking, and caring
During lockdown, the volunteers established a telephone tree to maintain contact with café attendees and to offer to do shopping or collect prescriptions. Through these conversations a change in the provision of paid carer services was identified. In responses to this a twice weekly soup and cake run was established in partnership with a local café. Soup was free up until end July when a small charge was introduced to sustain the service. To date we have delivered 4759 soups and cake.
In August in response to the “Eat Out to help Out” scheme 75 older people were treated to a free afternoon tea event in a local café. This was the first time that many elderly people had been out since March. A sensory garden was opened in late July and as lockdown restrictions were eased and this provided a peaceful sanctuary to hold one-to one meetings with the younger group of people with dementia. Many carers stated that these meetings were a lifeline as many missed social contact.
In October in response to some people being asked what they missed several responded “I could murder a fish supper”. 231 fish suppers have been delivered free with many elderly people offering generous donations which is enabling the service to continue for the foreseeable future. In December 100 Christmas hampers were delivered in partnership with Queen Victoria Ministry of Defence school and the Rotary Club. All these small acts of kindness have been very much appreciated.
One recipient wrote,
“Thank you for all that you do for the community. It really gives us a true feeling of being cared for and included in local activities. Very much appreciated.”
Another wrote “Thank you for the surprise hamper. The contents are much appreciated, and my wife smiled when she saw it-something she seldom does these days.”.
On Christmas Eve we will deliver 30 Christmas meals to elderly people who will spend Christmas alone. We are grateful to the Health & Social Care Alliance and Independent Age UK for the funding to undertake all these activities.
The biggest challenge we will face will be getting the café reopened and Covid-19 compliant. We will not be able to have as many people attend due to social distancing regulations. We may have to consider opening twice weekly to accommodate the number of people who previously attended. Getting the elderly people to come out will be challenging as many have lost confidence and have become very frail during Covid. Financially we need to secure funding for the project co-ordinators salary which ends in March 2021.
The Braeport Centre has put in place all Covid-19 policies and procedures recommended by the Scottish Government. We will resume the café with small numbers of people to start with. Singing will not take place but we will continue to offer chair- based exercises. Transporting the people to the café will have to be risk assessed on an individual basis and two drivers allocated to those identified as high risk. We will apply for any appropriate funding to enable us to continue our work.
We have identified a real unmet need with many local elderly people living alone who are lonely and isolated. The current provision of paid social care support does not factor in time to build relationships and communicate with the elderly. We are establishing a befriending and community connector scheme to help address this.
Covid-19 has had a monumental impact on the Third sector’s ability to provide frontline support that is needed. A significant rise in demand whilst facing a massive reduction in income has been very challenging. The Third sector needs long term funding to provide the support that is needed. There needs to be more cohesive collaboration between statutory and voluntary sectors.
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