It’s a bright, sunny morning in Wisbech. Inside the light and airy community centre about 20 people are gathered round tables, chatting to each other, sipping cups of tea and nibbling at cakes and biscuits.
Daniel Schaffer and Lisa Lowe circulate among them, meeting old friends and greeting newcomers. The atmosphere is as warm as the weather outside.
Welcome to the Dementia Café, a monthly get-together that takes place on the first Monday of each month at the Robert Hall Centre in St Augustine’s Road. It is for people who have recently been diagnosed with dementia and those who care for them.
Daniel is the Dementia Support Manager for the Fenland office of the Alzheimer’s Society, based at Parkside Day Hospital in Wisbech. Lisa is a support worker with the society.
Daniel says: “We launched the Cafe here in March and it’s been a great success. It’s aimed mainly at people in the early stages of dementia and their carers and the idea is to enable them to talk about the condition and its consequences.
“It’s very friendly and informal and combines practical information and education with general socialising.
“Between 20 and 40 people come along each month.
“There is no formal referral process – anyone who has been given a diagnosis of dementia can come along either on their own or with family, friends or carers.
“It gives them the chance to ask questions of health professionals, pick up practical tips about coping and get some emotional support from each other.”
Lisa says: “It’s a real community thing. Many people with dementia often feel very isolated and there’s a lot of stigma associated with it. The Café gives people the chance to get out and about and meet others in the same or similar circumstances and share their experiences. That really helps.”
Each monthly meeting includes a talk from an outside speaker on the services they offer and how to access them. Last month, Jeff Turner from the Bobby Scheme gave advice on home security. This Monday Fiona Poignand from Mytime Active talked about keeping active at home, the importance of healthy eating and the free help on offer from personal health trainers.
As well as the Café, the society already runs a twice-monthly support group in both Wisbech and March. It has just launched a monthly carers’ group in Chatteris and is hoping to start another one in Whittlesey within the next couple of months.
Information and support are also available over the phone or through home visits.
For more details, call the Fenland office of the Alzheimer’s Society on 01945 580460 or email firstname.lastname@example.org