City church part of care village dementia plan
As a £19m ‘care village’ on the edge of Norwich prepares to open its doors next spring, members of nearby Bowthorpe Church, are helping to develop a Dementia Friendly Community in the area. Mike Wiltshire reports.
An 80-bed specialised care home, called Mayflower Court, with a further 92 apartments, part of a housing with-care-scheme, called The Meadows, are being built on a 79-acre site at Three Score in Bowthorpe by NorseCare, owned by Norfolk County Council, working in partnership with the Saffron Housing Trust.
Although there are more than 850,000 registered dementia sufferers in the UK – of whom 17,000 are in Norfolk, there is widespread anxiety about the impact of the illness, which comes in 200 varieties, and which starts with loss of short-term memory and changes of perception. It is believed that one person in 14 could develop dementia, including younger people. The youngest sufferer in Norfolk is a woman aged 27.
In Norfolk, there are around 70 dementia cafes, run by the Alzheimer’s Society and Age UK. They provide a safe and supportive environment for people with dementia. They also enable carers to socialise and find advice. However, there is much that the wider community can learn in helping to ease the burden for sufferers and carers alike.
By becoming “Dementia Friends”, members and friends of Bowthorpe Church – located half-a-mile from the Care Village – have learned vital aspects about dementia and the many misconceptions. For example: dementia is not a natural part of ageing; it’s possible to live well with dementia; it’s not just about memory-loss and mood changes – it can affect thinking, communicating and doing everyday tasks.
“There’s more to a person than dementia,” says Lois Wiltshire, a “Dementia Friends Champion,” who networks in the area on behalf of Bowthorpe Church. “We want to turn our new understanding into action.”
Kate Grange, who works with the Community Engagement Partnership and Norsecare, is working with Lois and others to show that, with support, people with dementia can and do take an active role in life.
As a care provider, NorseCare, is keen to be an integral part of the local community, “and Bowthorpe is no different,” says Richard Smith, marketing manager of the care company. “We have already been working very closely with Bowthorpe Church, sharing our plans for the care village, helping them with community groups, Dementia Friends sessions, pastoral support and many more activities. The local church has a vital role in the community,” he adds. “We hope the new care village and the church can share facilities.”
Dementia Friendly Communities, such as those in Aylesham, Wymonham, Swaffham, Diss and Wayland and Wells, are based on inclusion, where people living with dementia feel empowered to play an active role in their communities – for example, having a coffee or meal with friends or shopping for a gift for a loved one.
The ‘Welcome Me as I Am’ project, which promotes awareness of mental health in faith communities and in the wider world, says: “Churches need to welcome and include people with dementia, as well as their carers.
Meanwhile, Heather Edwards, a Norwich teacher and hospital volunteer, has developed the ‘Music Mirrors’ resource project - a unique way to spark memory through music, which is “language beyond words.” There has been national interest among healthcare professionals in Heather’s system which awakens emotions and helps the person with dementia to feel recognised and valued. Heather, is a Quaker who also worships with the German Lutheran Church in East Anglia.
For details about the work of “Dementia Friends”, call Lois on 01603 503 274.
Hear Lois talk about this project on Radio Norfolk, starting at 1hr 43mins.
Pictured above is Lois Wiltshire, in a hard-hat, tours the new Care Village at Bowthorpe, with an artist's impression, top.