Tuesday, 19 October 2021

New ‘memory cafe’ offers help to dementia sufferers

A NEW group providing support for dementia sufferers and their carers will start in Henley next month.

The Christ Church Centre in Reading Road is starting a “memory café” to replace some of the services provided by the Bluebells club.

The twice weekly day care service run by Age UK Oxfordshire is being axed due to cuts by Oxfordshire County Council.

The new group will run from 10am to 2pm on one day a week and could expand if it proves popular. Like Bluebells, it will offer activities, entertainment and information.

Rev Glyn Millington, minister at Christ Church, said there were already staff and volunteers available to help get it going.

He said: “We are aware there is a need for a provision of services for people suffering with dementia and their carers to provide some respite. There is still some provision further north in Oxford but down here in the basement of Oxfordshire it’s a bit thin.  There is a monthly memory café at Chilterns Court care home but we want to do something weekly. 

“It will give people a few hours out of the home to meet other people and give a bit of respite to the carers. We can’t support them as well as Bluebells and Age UK but it’s a contribution.

“It’s a hidden problem because you don’t see these people roaming the streets. Their carers have the most desperately difficult time and they live with it 24 hours a day.”

The Christ Church Centre has applied to Henley Town Council for a £1,500 grant, although the council has allocated it £8,160 in its budget for 2018-19. The money would help pay for an experienced part-time member of staff to oversee the project.

The church has also applied to the Wessex Synod of the United Reformed Church for the same amount.

Mr Millington said: “This has been coming since the county council reviewed its funding of the facilities about 18 months ago. Bluebells was down to four, six or eight people but it used to be a dozen and would often be full.”

He said the new group would involve socialising, activities, entertainment, a sing-song and a quiz as well as an opportunity for people to have lunch together.

“Initially carers will have to come but as things settle down they will be able to go away and put their feet up,” he said. “It may take a while to bed in but we think it’s going to work.”

Age UK is to close Bluebells from the end of this month due to a cut in funding from the county council. The charity attempted to maintain its eight clubs across the county by reducing costs, raising fees and encouraging more users.

In September Bluebells sessions were cut from four days a week to two and the charges were raised by 50 per cent to £17.50 per day.

In January Age UK Oxfordshire chief executive Penny Thewlis said: “After four months of operating in the new way, it is clear that in six of our eight clubs the increase in the number of members attending that we anticipated has not happened.

“This means that the income we need to maintain the clubs has not been generated. We have to think about how we can best use the resources available to us to continue the friendship and support that people value at our clubs in a different and more sustainable way.”

 For more information about the memory café, call (01491) 577733.

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