A blossomig year for Mid-Ulster Dementia Support Group

A YEAR on from planting a special cherry blossom tree to remember those past and present, members of the Mid Ulster Dementia Support Group gathered at Ballyronan Marina for a special anniversary service.

The group, formed almost seven years ago, planted a Tree of Remembrance last April to signify the establishment of the group and the great work it has done since 2005.

Group chair Ann Cardwell joined fellow members - all of whom have been through or are currently coping with the devastating effects of having a loved one diagnosed with dementia - in welcoming those in attendance.

“On behalf of the Mid Ulster Dementia Support Group please let me welcome you all here today to help us mark the passage of time and the changes that the past 12 months have brought,” she said.

“The group has become a life-line to stressed carers, offering help and support, a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on as well as a source of fun and friendship”

As well as providing advice and information on options of care for people living with dementia, the group offers a befriending and outreach support service which includes a best-buddy scheme, where carers who can’t attend on a regular basis can keep in touch by phone or text with the occasional meeting.

The group also offers £50 grants to carers, raised through donations and fundraising.

Ann, who lost her mum to Dementia, explained that for some people this can be an easier way to keep in touch with the group and still avail of the support network that is there.

Keynote speaker was Mrs Phil Hughes, Head of Mental Health Services for Older People at the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

Mrs Hughes detailed the increasing numbers of those being diagnosed with dementia within the province and how numbers are expected to rise.

Currently there are 19,000 people with the progressive illness in Northern Ireland, which is expected to rise to 23,000 by 2017 and a up to a staggering 60,000 by 2051.

She outlined the importance of the Northern Areas Draft Dementia Care Pathway, which aims to improve the way service is provided to those suffering from dementia and the help given to carers.

This includes providing as a close a service to patients homes as possible; supporting those with dementia to stay in their own homes as long as possible and the transformation of services to meet the needs of people with dementia and their carers to be able to meet future demand.

“We are committed to changing this and to improve the support and information services we have to support people with dementia to manage their condition as independently as possible,” she added.

The service also included a number of cheque presentations made to the group on behalf of Cookstown and Magherafelt Lions Club; Donaghendry Parish Church; Johnston Publishing and Friends of Ferrard House.

There was also a presentation made to Rev Andrew Rawding of Donaghendry Parish Church for his forthcoming trip.

The group also presented a gift to Mrs Phil Hughes.

Ending the anniversary service with a minutes silence to remember loved ones who had passed away, Pauline Neil, Co-facilitator of Mid Ulster Dementia Support Group said: “We sincerely hope that this tree will continue to give carers still on their journey with dementia the courage and strength to continue with this illness.”

The group would like to highlight that Mrs Aveen Donnell, manager of Weavers House Care Home, Moneymore is available to talk to

Thanks was given to Cookstown District Council; Kevin Wright and Jaqueline Williamson of First Housing Aid and Support Services; Darragh Shiels of St Vincent De Paul, Dungannon; all the organisations and those involved in fundraising; Sheelagh Ross; and May and Ann of the Marina Centre

The event was attended by council staff, carers, group members and theur families as well as representatives from local care homes including Weavers Care Home, Moneymore which refers residents to the group.

Manager at Weavers, Aveen Donnelly, has urged anyone who would like to speak to her regarding care to contact her on 028 867 67684.