REPoD (Rotarians Easing Problems of Dementia) is a network of Rotarians willing to take direct action in their own communities to help support families who are coping alone with dementia.
Dementia affects around 820,000 people in the UK with 25 million of the population having a close friend or family member with dementia. It costs the UK economy £23 billion a year in care costs and lost revenue, more than cancer and heart disease combined. At least 163,000 new cases of dementia occur in England and Wales each year - one every 3.2 minutes and these figures are set to double within a generation. With worldwide figures also soaring the World Health Organisation are already talking about a global dementia epidemic.
Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia but there are many other forms affecting not just older men and women but also people in their 30s, 40s and 50s. At the moment there is still no cure, but Alzheimer's Research UK have been working hard to support a variety of research projects in Universities around the UK. Although we encourage clubs to raise money for research, REPoD's main focus is on the plight of the carers and the loved ones they care for.
One of the most successful projects we have been involved with has been the Memory Cafes.These are informal drop in sessions for people with dementia and their carers.
For a couple of hours once a fortnight or once a month, carers and the cared for get a chance to come along for a cup of tea and cake along with fun and games. Carers can join in a carers support group while volunteers organise and hour or so of games, singing sessions, reminiscence work, in fact all manner of entertainment where everyone gets a chance to take part. There are now around 50 different cafes operating around the country with local Rotary Clubs involved in varying degrees, from setting up and running the cafe to volunteering or offering financial support.
Working alongside the Memory Cafes we have also developed the Memory Box. Longterm memory stays relatively well preserved quite late into the development of dementia. So whilst people with dementia may not remember what they did that morning they can still recall things that happened more than 40 or so years earlier. Reminiscence is a wonderfully life enhancing opportunity for those living with dementia. And a memory box is full of a variety of different bits of memorabilia that can spark those wonderful moments of memory. Things like ration books, old comics, bubble gum cards, music CDs, photos etc.
Other projects we have been developing include:
- Dementia Friendly Communities. These can be created by bringing together an alliance of voluntary groups, businesses, traders, emergency services, schools, transport workers, GPs, community hospitals, libraries, councillors, church groups and other support groups, so they can listen to the needs of local families living with dementia and involve the whole community in finding ways to help improve their inclusion and quality of life and allow people with dementia to live at home for longer.
The REPoD team has already started to work with former newsreader Angela Rippon, who is co-chairing the project with the head of the Alzheimer's Society and we have been using Tavistock as a test case for how a local Rotary Club can get this moving. In December 2012 we launched the Tavistock Dementia Action Alliance with Angela as our Honorary Patron.
- The Fifth Emergency Service, something of a return to good old fashioned Rotary with Rotarians offering their expertise to local families caring for someone with dementia. This could be helping with simple household repairs, gardening, shopping, taxi service, help with form filling, changing a light bulb, or just being a listening ear.
- Forget-Me-Not Gardens - sensory gardens are designed to provide both a peaceful haven for carers and the cared for.
- Other new projects being developed by the REPoD team include a joint campaign with Young Carers Net to see how Rotary Clubs might be able to help develop a support network for children and teenagers who are living with a parent or grandparent with dementia.