A blossoming year for Mid-Ulster Dementia Support Group[

Members of the Mid-Ulster Dementia Support Group and invited guests pictured at the tree of remembrance which was planted 1 year ago to mark the setup of the group.INMM1613-309SR
Members of the Mid-Ulster Dementia Support Group and invited guests pictured at the tree of remembrance which was planted 1 year ago to mark the setup of the group.INMM1613-309SR

A YEAR on from planting a special cherry blossom to remember loved ones past and present, members of Mid Ulster Dementia Support Group gathered at Ballyronan Marina for this very special anniversary event.

The roots of the tree symbolize the founding of the group back in 2005, these roots are now firmly planted in the community.

The branches of the tree are the dementia journey which those living with the illness and their carers are now travelling and the buds of the tree are the new beginnings of new carers meeting with the group and finding comfort and support within the group.

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.

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 Mrs Phil Hughes, Head of Mental Services for Older People and Professional Lead for Social Work and Social Care 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 an up to a staggering 60.000 by 2051.

She outlined the importance of the Norther Area 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 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.”

Mrs Hughes also said Sheelagh Ross Senior Community Support Worker must be applauded for the excellent service she has created in the Mid Ulster area the new volunteer service is an excellent group of volunteers coming from a wide range of life experiences and bringing a wealth of experience to this service.

“Feedback from people with dementia and their families have been very positive,” she added.

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

Mrs Norma McComb then presented a cheque on behalf of the group to Rev. Andrew Rawding of Donaghendry Parish Church for his forthcoming trip to the Congo.

Rev Rawding commented that this group sends out so much love into the community.

Two of the founder members of the group Mrs Esther Hessin and Mrs Mary Devlin then presented Mrs Phil Hughes with a thank you gift from the group.

Ending the anniversary event with a minutes silence to remember loved ones who had passed away, Mrs Pauline Neill, 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.”

Thanks was given to Cookstown District Council, Mr Kevin Wright of First Housing Aid and Support Services, Mr William Neill and Mr Emmet Mallon on behalf of Mr Darragh Shiels of St Vincent De Paul, Dungannon branch, To Sheelagh Ross for her continued help and support, May and Ann of the Marina Centre.

The event was attended by group members, members of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, representatives from day centres, representatives from local care homes, including Weavers House Care Home in Cookstown which refers carers to the group for emotional support, Mrs Aveen Donnelly Manager at Weavers House has urged anyone who would like to speak to her regarding care to contact her on 028 867 67684.

IN 2012 the group gave 27 grants of £50 to carers in the Mid Ulster Area to help with sitting service costs and are to delighted to state that in the current year will be able to supply probably 40 + grants to carers living with dementia, the group all know first hand how important a few hours ‘me time’ can be to a very stressed carer.