Ruth Bartles is leaving her job to open up a cafe in Sheffield dedicated to Dementia sufferers and their families and friends. Why? She tells us the facts, figures, and frankly plain human feeling behind the illness and what she plans to do to help…

Here are some figures that might shock you. Since 2012, the diagnosis of dementia in England has increased by almost 50 per cent. One in 79 (1.3 per cent) of the entire UK population, and one in every 14 of the population aged 65 years and over is living with dementia. Sheffield is currently predicted to have 7342 people living with dementia by 2020. The biggest increase will be in the people aged 85 and over, which will nearly double over the same period.

Until last year, I wasn’t exactly sure what dementia was, I just thought it was forgetting things and something that happens when you’re older. However, after studying the biology, psychology and sociology of dementia I now know that dementia isn’t an inevitable part of ageing, and that there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that it is possible to reduce an individual’s risk of dementia.

So the science behind it…

Dementia is a word that describes a group of symptoms that occur when brain cells stop working properly. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause, accounting for about two-thirds of cases in older people, and typical early symptoms include short-term memory loss. Vascular dementia is the second most common form, this is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, for example after suffering a stroke, and symptoms will vary depending on the area of the brain that is affected. There are other forms of dementia but these are less common forms and have symptoms that include loss of spatial awareness and change in personality and behaviour. If you want to learn more, take a look at the Alzheimer’s Research UK website – http://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/.

The Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia 2020 Implementation Plan (Dementia Policy Team, March 2016) aims to make England the best country in the world for people with dementia, their carers and families to live by 2020. The plan has themes that focus on risk reduction, health and care, and dementia awareness and social action. Public understanding of dementia is still very poor, fear of dementia remains high, and there is a reluctance to seek help and few people understand that it is possible to live well with dementia.

One of my favourite sayings is ‘She believed she could, so she did’. I became so interested in dementia and so passionate about the need to do something to help people live well with dementia, that I took my belief, changed my life and now, after working for 18 years in higher education, will be opening a new type of dementia cafe.

From making this decision in October 2016, to now, just days before I leave my job, has been exciting, slightly scary and quite a ride! Being a single mum and supporting two children, I am working hard, and as fast as I can, so that I can continue to pay my mortgage so that we don’t have to live in cardboard boxes!

My learning curve could be compared to Northumberland Road leading up to the Management School – that is, it has been steep! I’ve had to learn how to choose a business structure and set it up, I’ve joined all kinds of dementia groups, met with several academic staff working on research in the area of dementia, and I’ve had to learn how to get the word out there by writing a blog, tweeting, being on the radio, giving talks to students, and writing news features.

My café will be called ‘Remember When …’ and it will be an exciting new venue serving fresh, healthy food for everyone. It will be open Monday – Saturday, and will celebrate people who are living well with dementia and memory loss by: providing support and information for those living with dementia and memory loss, and their families/friends; raising awareness and reducing stigmatisation and bringing the community closer to new research.

The café will have a memory wall for people to add photos and messages of someone they care for or have cared for will compliment a range of photos of Sheffield from the past. This will invoke memories and provide focal points for conversations, encouraging both people living with dementia and families/friends to make new connections in the community. Regular activities will take place for people living with dementia and memory loss to take part in and make new friends, while at the same time their families and friends can have a break and talk to other people in similar situations. People can join wellbeing and advice sessions (eg craft groups, physical needs and adjustments, exercise and healthy eating). The café will also host small exhibitions such as a gallery of art produced by people living with dementia, events featuring music from set periods of time, and food tastes from the past.

Being open to the whole community, ‘Remember When …’ will provide a place for people living with dementia and carers to remain part of the community and meet and engage with family and groups of friends. The community will see people living with dementia and memory loss as part of the community and joining in group activities, will see their art exhibitions and memory photos, and will also have easy access to information and leaflets that provide information about dementia and memory loss, and signposting to support services. Customers will be welcome to volunteer in the café, whether they are someone living with dementia, memory loss, a carer or otherwise.

The café will provide information about dementia research happening at Sheffield’s universities and beyond and present opportunities to become part of the research. It will also provide ‘plain English’ messages about research activity and outcomes. For example, visitors may choose to work with researchers to help design creative strategies for the development of future living environments in which people of all ages and abilities are enabled and empowered to live with dignity, independence and fulfilment.

Does this sound like a good idea to you? Would you like to help? Here’s how you can be involved –

DONATE

Take a look at my crowdfunding page http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/remember-when-dementia-cafe
You can either donate or select a reward –
£10 will get you a great big thank you from me
£25 In addition to a great big thank you, you can be one of the first to add a photo to the memory wall
£50 you can add a photo to the memory wall and enjoy a free lunch
£100 you can add a photo to the memory wall and be invited to the opening event

SHARE

Raising awareness is key to making ‘Remember When…’ a reality. Please share my crowd funding page across social media and with friends. Use good old fashioned ‘word of mouth’ to spread the message, especially with those with a particular interest in dementia. Don’t forget my blog https://ontheroadwithruthblog.wordpress.com/

VOLUNTEER

Once the funding and premises have been secured, I will need as much help as possible to put the ideas into practice, if you can volunteer your time or a practical skill they would be greatly appreciated!
Contact me at @Auntyruth on twitter

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