Help at hand for dementia carers

Carers looking after loved ones with dementia are often “on the brink of collapse” because they don’t know where or how to access support.

The claim comes from the co-founder of Here-4-U in Holbeach and Long Sutton Outreach, two community groups which support those at risk of social isolation, especially carers of people with dementia.

Former Holbeach Parish and Fleet Parish councillor Joan Woolard said she knew personally of two people who died as a direct result of the stresses and strains of caring for family members with dementia.

She said the problem of people not knowing where to access help occurs despite the efforts of organisations which offer support such as Carers First and Alzheimer’s Society.

Mrs Woolard said: “I have been trying to get across to MPs and the NHS that people need to know where the groups are that can support people with dementia and the people who look after them.

“These are people for whom social integration is vital. When you are caring for someone with dementia you can end up shut up inside four walls.

“It can be very difficult to take them to places where people are understanding and sympathetic.

“Some large companies like banks have actually trained staff to be aware of the problems but the public at large don’t know how hard it can be to cope with a dementia patient.

“The later stages can be very embarrassing or difficult to deal with sometimes. This all adds to the stress of caring for them, not to mention the broken sleep and the need for constant alertness because of erratic behaviour such as turning on the cooker at two in the morning or putting the car keys in the microwave.

“Often it is easier to stay at home in four walls and risk mental illness through social isolation.”

There is a very great need for sympathetic company within easy reach and easily accessible.

Social interaction is a desperate need of human beings, almost as important as medicines.

Carers need to know where to get support without trawling through lists of contacts and numbers which are often out of date.

“They have no time to spend on such research, but everyone knows where their doctors are.

“Every GP’s practice should have a group attached to it, but independently run.

“Patients groups are the ideal source of volunteers. Busy practice managers need not fear extra work as it can all be done by patients, including applying for grants to rent a hall, arranging catering, entertainment and so on. These groups can be entirely run by volunteers at no cost to the NHS.

“The main thing is that everyone knows where they are because of the association with their doctor’s surgery.

“We need to make sure these people are getting the support they need and it is down to the NHS and the Government to make sure that happens.”

Long Sutton Outreach (LSO) meets from 10.30am to 3.30pm on the third Thursday of the month at the Royal British Legion Hall on West Street. Admission is free. Between 20 and 30 people enjoy free entertainment and a raffle. Holbeach Community Bus is used to pick up those with mobility issues, which is also free of charge.

Anyone interested in finding out more about LSO, particularly anyone who has a few hours to spare to help out with the running of the group or driving the minibus, can email or call her on 01406 426508 or pop along to the group’s meeting on Thursday, July 18 when a party is planned to celebrate its fourth anniversary.

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