“Christmas can be a dismal time for those that are vulnerable, events like this are massively important.”- Lesley Fisher, carer.
The Walkden Community Hub in Salford opened its doors to those suffering with dementia for a turkey dinner on Tuesday, and the room was full of Christmas joy.
Volunteers organised the lunch which ran from 12-2pm and decorated the Hub into a winter wonderland with music, Christmas trees, lights, baubles, tinsle and even a bar. Carers, nurses and family members of those with dementia also attended.
Lesley Fisher organises a class called Dancing With Dementia and had brought her sister, Jean to the dinner who she is the secondary cares for.
She said: “its just as important for the carers to come along as it makes such nice change from being stuck in the same house caring for that one family member, it can get lonely.”
Across each table pictures of Walkdens historic buildings were scattered to encourage memories and conversation between the group.
As the nattering continued, dinner and extra gravy arrived and the room was filled with rich, festive aromas. For dessert, a very traditional Christmas pudding with brandy sauce was served, there were smiles all round.
To follow, the Christ The King RC Primary School children’s choir entered in floppy Santa hat, with their hymn sheets in hand and performed a selection of carols for everyone to enjoy.
As toes tapped and smiles beamed, volunteer Ashleigh McGrath said: “the interaction between the elderly with dementia and young children is lovely to watch, both seem to really enjoy the experience and its heartwarming to see. Many people with dementia go backwards and some see their own grown-up children as young children so it makes them feel good.”
Primary School teacher, Taylor Byrnes said: “we encourage the children to go to events like this because we see the smiles it brings, we go to retirement homes as well and the kids love it.”
Dementia is a disease that can effect people in all sorts of varying ways. Carer, Joanne Hope explained that her Father who had passed became increasingly angry and even aggressive, which was out of his usual character. Some, lose all their confidence and lead insular lives, others act child-like and rely on a parental figure which can often be their own son or daughter.
The room was full of people effected in different ways which allowed everyone to support one another.
Joanne said: “we need more people involved, this was their first dinner and it was full, imagine how much more we could do if more people jumped on board. Everyone knows someone with dementia, it’s too common to not care about.
Ashleigh, Joanne and all the other volunteers have plans to do more Christmas Dinners at the Walkden Community Hub after the staggering interest in the area. In 2015, Dr Tom Tasker, Salford Clinical Commissioning Group’s lead for mental health said: “In Salford alone, more than 700 people a year will develop dementia.”
With numbers like this, its clear togetherness at this time of year is exactly what Salford needs.