Dementia Friendly Brecon

04.6.15

This week, our Engagement Coordinator, Kate Hughes, blogs about her recent visit to Brecon, the first community in Wales to be publicly recognised by Alzheimer's Society for their work towards becoming dementia-friendly.

My role involves meeting people right across Wales and as part of my work I often meet people with dementia and their carers. Dementia is such a common condition, it has touched many lives, including mine, and as you can imagine, the experiences of people with dementia are ones that stay with me long after my visits.  Living in a community that is supportive and understands the needs of people with dementia can really improve these experiences, so I had been looking forward to seeing the Dementia Friendly Initiatives in Brecon for a while. The range of activities that they had planned during Dementia Awareness Week provided the perfect opportunity.

Arriving in Brecon, I met with Rhiannon Davies, voluntary Chair of Dementia Friendly Brecon, who had agreed to show me a few of the schemes that make Brecon a good place to live with dementia.

We began the day at the Tea, Chat and Activities session, held at Brecon Mind and coordinated by the local Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Support worker. This social group supports people with dementia and their carers. After getting a cup of tea, people with dementia have the chance to take part in activities while carers just get to chat. Activities this week included poetry reading and flower arranging, and while that was going on I had a chance to find out from carers what would make a real difference in their lives. What they told me they want is so simple – someone they can call on for advice when they are not sure what to do and a booklet with suggested activities they could try with their loved one..

I heard there were long waits for help from social services and problems with accessing respite care, but what the carers I spoke to wanted was information and advice. Things that cost relatively little compared to the care that they are providing day in, day out.

The next stop was Trenewydd Care Home, where we met the resident gardening group. Residents have been working with Llanfaes Primary School to improve their outside space, to plan and plant flowers and crops. Many residents have spent their lives gardening and were enjoying sharing their experience and skills with the children. I heard how the visits from the children had brought the care home to life as generations united to start work on this project. I was very impressed by the progress they have made in a short time and have been inspired to try growing courgettes in my own garden!

We went on to visit the other partners in the gardening project in Llanfaes School. We met Mrs Lawrence, the Head Teacher, who bowled us over with her passion about making sure pupils understood about dementia and treated people with respect.  The whole school was involved with dementia awareness week and it was wonderful to see older pupils teaching the younger classes all about the things they had learnt in their “dementia friends” session. The children talked about dementia and thought about what memories they might have as they got older. It was fascinating to see what they had on their memories bookshelf. Even the youngest classes have been included, designing a huge forget-me-not and bunting.

Our final stop was Brecon Library which has signed up to making Brecon a ‘Dementia Friendly Community’. We were greeted by a massive information board, highlighting the fact that the library is part of Brecon’s dementia friendly community. The display includes books designed to help people reminisce. The friendly staff want the library to be a quiet and safe environment for people living with dementia and their carers.

Many thanks to Rhiannon Davies and all the volunteers at Dementia Friendly Brecon for taking the time to organise the day. I will definitely be back to find out more.

For further information about Dementia Friendly Brecon, please visit http://www.dementiafriendlybrecon.org.uk/.