A project between St Hugh’s Hospital and community charity Friendship At Home to support people with dementia and their families continues to flourish.
For four years, St Hugh’s has funded two dementia specialists, Mandy and Clare, to especially work with those experiencing the condition who use the charity’s services.
The funding has been extended for another three years, meaning Mandy and Clare can remain providing a vital lifeline, and help improve the lives of older people in our community.
Since 2017 when the partnership first began, they have proudly supported 309 people and their relatives or carers. Currently, they are giving ongoing care to 141 in all.
“We feel proud that the project’s development has evolved with the needs of our members, especially during such a difficult time, so we can remain person-centred and provide the appropriate support determined by the needs of each member and their carer and/or family,” said Friendship At Home in its recently published end-of-year report.
“We have supported some of our members for the third year running, and they often express how valuable it is to have that continuity of support, promoting trust and building strong working relationships.
“Many members express how unique we are and how good it is to have continuity, and they acknowledge that they rarely see the same professional over a lengthy period of time with statutory services.
“We were delighted to have secured a further three years’ funding from St Hughs for the dementia project, and Mandy and Clare have worked hard this year adapting it to meet our members’ needs in these uncertain times.
“This pandemic has really taken its toll on people with dementia. It is challenging for them to keep themselves safe, as many do not recognise invisible dangers or remember what to do to prevent risks, such as hand washing and face masks.
“Carers have also found it challenging because of the reduction or termination of day care and other respite services. Some of our St Hugh’s members reported that they felt very alone, frightened and isolated. Mandy and Clare, supported by the Friendship At Home staff, were a crucial lifeline to our members, keeping them updated about guidance, making useful suggestions, and being that much-needed listening ear.
“During the first lockdown, we were calling our members on a weekly basis and supplying them with personalised activities such as puzzles, knitting materials, and books and DVDs. We also hand-delivered retro sweets to each member, and this gave us an opportunity to see them face-to-face at a safe distance.”
During the summer, when some restrictions were lifted, the team met with members and carers in their gardens, and spoke on video calls, too. They also compiled monthly newsletters containing puzzles, recipes, useful information and more. The newsletters were so popular that they will continue to be produced bi-monthly.
The charity has also launched a Friendship app, where members can interact with staff and each other, and join in with social activities, including bingo, quizzes, exercise, and choir. Members have also been given ‘stripped back’ tablets to stay in touch more easily.
The end-of-year report also highlighted the work being done by the charity to break down barriers about dementia. People and their families are more honest, accepting and transparent when disccusing dementia, the report said. “It is certainly spoken about more freely and does not appear to be the taboo subject it once was. Members who have a diagnosis are also less embarrassed to tell others and are now discussing symptoms with others. This has a remarkable impact on breaking down barriers and challenging stigma.”
As to the future, the report outlined how eager Mandy and Clare are to see pandemic restrictions lifted. A new element of the service will be a group incorporating concepts of cognitive stimulation therapy (CST). Evidence suggests CST could be just as beneficial as drug treatments for the symptoms of dementia.
Find out more about the charity at www.friendshipathome.org.uk