FORGET ME NOT DEMENTIA CLUBS – An Outline with Don Williams

Forget me not Dementia Day Clubs

Dementia is a devastating condition as it affects the very core of our being. It is defined medically as the global failure of higher mental faculties. It affects memory and many other aspects of how we function. It alters our ability to think clearly, carry out easy tasks and the way we respond to simple instructions. Routine everyday activities become difficult. The changes are relentless and after a few years the sufferer requires help and support with basic daily tasks.

It starts very slowly. Often the first change is impaired judgement. Naturally every-one can have an occasional lapse but when this becomes a pattern it is a sign of sign-ificant mental impairment and usually at this point other psychological problems are fairly obvious. Constantly losing things can be the first sign. The penny will drop when a man or woman returns home by bus as they couldn’t find the parked car.

The illness is caused by shrinkage of the brain leading to mental deterioration which in due course affects every aspect of the individual’s mental processes. The two most common cause of dementia are Alzheimer’s Disease and hardening of the arteries giving rise to Vascular Dementia. The precise cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not known but the greatest risk factor is advancing age; head injuries also play a part.

If there is any suspicion that a person’s intellectual ability is flagging, medical assessment is essential, initially by the GP who will decide whether more specialized investigations are required. This step is important in excluding rare treatable disorders presenting as dementia.

Unfortunately there is no treatment that will bring about an enduring improvement and the thrust of any medical intervention is to make the diagnosis and provide support and care for the patient. The sufferer feels bewildered and may develop anxiety and depression requiring specific treatment. Naturally any help has to match the level of disability and the ability of the family to look after the patient.

To provide effective care for all sufferers a wide range of help and facilities are required, starting with support and help at home by way of community nurses and social workers. Day sitters and advice from occupational therapists can be invaluable together with attendance at day hospitals and day centres. Later, respite admissions can be of great benefit but in many instances long term residential care becomes essential.

Maintaining the moral and well-being of carers is vital and a whole range of options makes this easier. Most of the services are organised by the NHS or the local Social Services Dept. Voluntary organisations also make a very valuable contribution, the Alzheimer’s Society is a prominent national organisation. Here in Swansea we have the Forget Me Not Dementia Day Clubs, a local charity providing high quality care and support for sufferers and carers through day clubs held at several venues in the city.

Don Williams MD FRCPsych Consultant Psychiatrist Cefn Coed Hospital Swansea 1974 – 2003, later honorary consultant to persue research into the link bewtween heading the ball in soccer players and the devolpment of dementia.

For both person with dementia and carer to come together

Forget Me Not Dementia Day Clubs is a charity that was established in March 2011. However, due to the number of legal formalities that had to be negotiated, the first club actually opened in Siloam Church Hall in March 2012. There are now four day clubs, two in Killay, one in Gorseinon and one in Mumbles with another anticipated to open in Swansea in the near future.

MUMBLES CLUB – Monday 10am-1pm – Victoria Hall

GORSEINON CLUB – Wednesday 10am-1pm – Catholic Church Hall

KILLAY CLUBS – Wednesday 1.30pm-4.30pm/Thursday 10am-1pm – Siloam Church Hall

The clubs give couples the opportunity to share their experiences with others in a similar situation. They also allow for group interaction in a positive and informal environment. The aim is to make life as enjoyable as possible for both the person with dementia and their carer, enjoying activities such as games, dominos, arts and crafts, snooker, quizzes, trips and holidays.

This is what one carer had to say….“I feel that the success of the Forget Me Not Clubs is because we attend as couples and can all join in the activities, whatever they may be on that particular day. When my husband and I started, there were only two other couples attending, but as the numbers grew I feel that our family grew as well. When talking to friends and other people, saying how much we enjoy the group, I always say that on your first morning you may come in as strangers, but will leave as friends. From the moment we walk through the door, we start talking, laughing and enjoying ourselves. When some people come in they ask, “What is going on here? We can hear you half way up the street!” If I was asked how the clubs could be improved, I would answer categorically; — you can’t, as they are perfect.”

The club was extremely proud and honoured to receive the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services in 2016. This is the highest award a voluntary group can receive, in the UK.

This award was presented after the opening of the first Dementia Day Club just four years previously. This was a great honour in recognition of the dedication of all of the volunteers.

There are approximately 750,000 people in the U.K. with dementia and it is projected that by 2021 over a MILLION people will be affected with this illness. If your family or friends are affected by dementia, please tell them about us. Anyone who is suffering from memory loss has dementia or Alzheimer’s as well as carers and ex carers of people with dementia, are welcome to enjoy the benefits the clubs provide.

If you are interested in volunteering at any of our clubs, please contact us on: – 01792 448805

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