Dementia affects around 820,000 people in the UK with 25 million of the population having a close friend or family member with dementia. These figures are set to double within a generation, increasing the number of husbands, wives and children struggling to cope in isolation.

As one of the largest volunteering organisations in the country there are many competing demands on our Rotary Clubs locally and from overseas. However, with statistics like those above, projects designed to support local families living with dementia should have a high priority on our list of ‘opportunities to serve’.

Memory Cafes are places where people with dementia, and their carers, can enjoy regular social and supportive get-togethers. They are informal drop in centres where for a couple of hours, once a fortnight or once a month, carers can meet others with similar problems and enjoy a cup of tea/coffee and a cake.

For those with dementia reminiscence is a very powerful tool. Simple objects from the past can unlock memories and become a wonderfully therapeutic tool for people with memory loss. Memory Boxes are full of items of past times memorabilia that can spark those wonderful moments of memory – things like ration books, old comics, photographs, cigarette cards etc.

The benefits that music brings are also recognised. A CD and Song Book set has been developed with the collaboration of a professional musician. These enable cost effective, informal, ‘Sing-a-Long’ sessions to be held. Musical can instruments add a further dimension.

There is a Rotary organisation entitled ‘Rotarians Easing Problems of Dementia’. Memory cafes have been widely developed in the South West. However, in our District there is little evidence of Rotarians offering this service. Rotary Clubs can benefit from working together on joint projects and collaborating with other organisations. This is an opportunity for us to use our vocational skills.

This a sustainable project many of our clubs could embrace with Memory Cafes centred on major conurbations. One lady said “After he goes to the cafĂ© I get my husband back for a few hours”. REPOD

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