The latest Meeting Centre related webinar in our monthly ‘Bring Your Own Lunch’ series was delivered by Jackie Parkes, Professor in Applied Mental Health at University of Northampton. It covered work she has been delivering in Lutterworth (Leicestershire) and Northampton, and how it relates to current work being done with people at home. A lot of the work Jackie presented aligns very well with Meeting Centres, although it uses a slightly different approach.
Lutterworth Share and Care Group
The Lutterworth Share and Care Group (LSCG) started in January 2015, and supports people with dementia in the local community. Their offer has expanded over the years to include cooking courses, crafts, woodwork, lunch clubs and gardening as well as coffee mornings. Its sessions are delivered in several local community venues including the college, allotment, church and leisure centre depending on the activity. While the Meeting Centre approach supports both the person with dementia and carer, some activities run by LSCG, such as cooking and gardening are specifically just for the people with dementia. This works two-fold, providing respite to carers and also enabling the activity teachers to focus on building confidence for the people with dementia.
In addition to weekly activities, the group also runs monthly visits to places such as gardens and stately homes. Funding for the LSCG has come from multiple sources which tend to be short-term, meaning that funding is an ongoing challenge and concern.
The UnityDem Centre
‘Changemaker’ funding from the University of Northampton enabled Jackie and her team to develop the UnityDem Centre. It offered a range of social support activities, but also ran Cognitive Stimulation Therapy sessions for people with dementia. Launched March 2018, the Centre supported 20+ couples with a relatively new diagnosis of dementia. The project was due to finish April 2020, but was brought to a premature end by COVID-19.
The Gazeley Centre
The Gazeley Centre will bring together work from several areas in an integrated model, acting as a hub for bringing together learning from previous work as well as community and academic partners.
Managed by the not-for-profit company ADRE Ltd, the Gazeley Centre will be based in Lutterworth in a building on site of local college, with the aim to work with college pupils in the future. While it will host LSCG for some sessions to help with their longer-term funding issues, the LSCG will continue to use other community venues and so remain part of the wider community. The Gazeley Centre will also deliver other activities and house facilities such as a coffee shop, workshop. It will be staffed by trained activity teachers to promote a lifelong learning approach, linking in with principles from Aalborg Dementia School in Denmark. There is still work to be done on the building, and obviously no activity sessions will be carried out there until it is safe and appropriate to do so.
What is happening during COVID-19?
As a result of the COVID-19 situation, all groups ended 17th March, and the team took a week to step back and decide what approach to take in order to continue supporting people with dementia and their carers.
They developed a 13-week programme using packs designed by the various activity teachers, with each week having a different themed pack. It was very much a team effort with everyone contributing according to their specialisms. Getting the packs to people was done via email or by dropping off printed copies during dog walks in the local area. The activities within the packs have been delivered using a mix of phone calls, FaceTime etc., and carer workshops are being trialled on Zoom. The remote programme has worked well, but it was recognised that this approach did not necessarily suit everyone.
While the team is being positive and looking to the future, they will understandably be taking it slowly, doing extensive risk assessments, and following all relevant guidance. They are putting plans in place to start coming out of lockdown using a phased approach. The team are hoping to move onto the next phase in coming weeks, which is looking at piloting small group activities in garden as they feel face-to-face activities will work better for some people. This could be followed by inviting couples to the new Gazeley property to help out and become familiar with it, before moving to small groups there. As ever, funding could be an issue as the level of income generated will be lower than anticipated if they have to work with small groups.
Thanks to Jackie for sharing her experiences with everyone.