Cherry Evans shares how the Community Makers network has helped her to continue supporting people affected by dementia since the first lockdown.
I previously had the privilege of working for Alzheimer’s Society, but since July 2019 I have been employed by Pembrokeshire Association of Voluntary Services as Dementia Supportive Community Connector.
My role is to develop and facilitate activities that enable people affected by dementia to achieve the best quality of life.
I was looking for inspiration to develop activities in a new way, owing to the lockdown.
The Community Makers network has been an opportunity to learn from others and share information and advice, which has helped us run our successful online Tea and Natter group.
Prior to the lockdown, we had eight memory cafes around the county. These provided an opportunity for people affected by dementia to socialise in an informal setting, with old friendships rekindled and new friendships made. The cafes were a source of peer support and sharing of information.
Overnight these were lost, and with no end date for the lockdown there was no sign of when they could be resumed. We created the Tea and Natter group as a way for people living with dementia to socialise and to ensure that they did not feel forgotten.
The online group has been meeting every week since late May. The sessions are very relaxed. Some weeks we have a quiz, one week we spoke about our favourite songs and the next we sang along to songs via YouTube.
By linking YouTube to Zoom, we have watched and discussed our favourite children’s TV programmes, such as Andy Pandy and The Woodentops.
We have had guest speakers including our local Society dementia adviser, and one week a Trading Standards officer spoke about scams.
Knowledge and tools
When face-to-face groups were suspended, I had no idea how to provide an opportunity for people to interact.
Community Makers gave me the knowledge and tools to continue providing opportunities for people living with dementia to feel part of something.
I learnt about Zoom – I had never heard about it, let alone used it, but I gained the confidence to set up weekly Tea and Natter meetings over Zoom.
Community Makers meetings have been very helpful for sharing ideas, and the website is a great resource. It is very easy to use and very informative, especially the templates and guides. I would recommend anyone considering setting up a virtual group to take a look.
Community Makers is an initiative between the Society, the Association for Dementia Studies at University of Worcester and the UK DRI Care Research & Technology Centre. It’s supporting groups for people affected by dementia to get online.