Dementia can be one of the most distressing conditions to witness when it takes hold, as it robs a loved one of his or her personality.
Thankfully, there’s support in place for carers living in the Cookstown and Magherafelt areas, in the form of the Mid-Ulster Dementia Support Group.
When the MAIL met up with the members, they were keen to share their personal experiences of caring for a husband, wife, mother or father with dementia.
The Mid-Ulster Dementia Support Group was started back in 2005 by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust to support carers of people living with dementia. In 2009 current group facilitator Ann Cardwell took over at the helm. Ann’s mother, who had dementia, passed away in October 2008 so she is well placed to advise and support the members of the group.
The group is essentially a support mechanism for carers to allow them to meet up with others who are experiencing the same difficulties and challenges that come with caring for loved ones with dementia. The group is also open to those who have been bereaved and they can still take advantage of this wonderful support.
Dementia is an illness that can be progressive or it can take hold of a person suddenly.
“Sometimes you don’t see the change in the person because you are looking after him or her all the time, but others can see the decline,” explained Group Facilitator, Ann.
Some describe dementia as a ‘cancer’ that eats away at the person - they see it as an illness that gradually takes hold of the mind, sadly transforming the loved one into a shadow of his or her former self.
Ann emphasised that carers who have been bereaved are able to support new members of the group, many of whom feel overwhelmed by their experience.
“We meet two Wednesdays in the month at the annex at Westlands, but coming into the better weather one Wednesday in the month, we would usually go out to a cafe,” she explained. “There are some people who don’t feel comfortable coming to the group so I would meet with them on a one-to-one basis and hopefully further down the line, they feel they can come into the group surroundings.
“And it’s important to emphasise that whatever is talked about in the room, stays inside” stressed Ann.
“When you are caring for someone with dementia, you may feel disloyal talking about how this has affected you, but in the group, everyone understands and often the issues that affect them, will affect others.”
The Mid-Ulster Dementia Support group will be holding a 1950s nostalgic tea dance on Wednesday, May 21 from 11:30am to 2:30pm in the Glenavon Hotel, Cookstown. A light lunch will be served at noon.
There will be audience participation, sing-a-long and dancing with music provided by Dance Unlimited.
The event is for everyone in the community and if anyone wants to come along, they must RSVP Ann Cardwell on 07865 681982.
A cherry blossom tree stands pride of place at the Marina Centre in Ballyronan, having been planted two years ago in memory of people who have passed away.
Next year the group celebrates its 10th anniversary and all the members are looking forward to this very special milestone.