Feb 22 2012 by Gregor White, Stirling Observer Wednesday
AFTER 20 years on the go some organisations can start to lose their drive as initial enthusiasm and early successes become just dim memories overshadowed by the long and weary slog of the day to day.
Not so with Town Break, though, where staff and volunteers seem determined to use their 20th anniversary as a launch pad for even more hard work and innovation than they’ve already displayed.
After a successful few months of awareness raising across the community last year, the Stirling area’s local provider of day care and befriending services for people with early stage dementia has a whole raft of activity planned for the coming months. This ranges from more volunteer training to a poster competition, an open day and a celebration dance.
Recently holding a special Valentine’s Day lunch at the Stirling Day Club, attended and supported by Town Break patron Anne McGuire MP, this awareness raising goes hand in hand with the changing profile of dementia at a national level.
“There’s not the stigma to dementia now that there was maybe even just a few years ago,” says development co-ordinator Julie Christie.
“It’s not something that so many people feel they have to hide.
“So, whereas before we would get most of our referrals from health teams and social work now it’s families and even people with dementia themselves who are coming forward to find out what support is available.”
Through Town Break this support is offered in a range of ways - through Day Clubs that meet twice weekly in Stirling and once a week in Callander; through a Befrienders scheme matching volunteers and dementia sufferers on a one-to-one basis; and now a new Friendship Group is also planned to provide support to those currently on the waiting list for Town Break’s other services.
In all there is a strong emphasis on combating the sense of loneliness and isolation that can often follow diagnosis.
“It’s very much about supporting people and showing them that life doesn’t end after diagnosis,” says Julie.
“People can feel stupid if they start to forget things, say, but at our groups nobody’s going to bat an eyelid if someone can’t immediately remember a name or if they repeat themselves.
“The groups also offer a chance for people to try something new because having dementia doesn’t necessarily mean having to just be comforted by the same old, familiar activities.
“There is still scope in a supportive environment to branch out.”
Town Break works with a small team of mainly part time staff funded by a range of grant-making bodies, but by and large its activities would be impossible without volunteer assistance.
Volunteering with Town Break centres on providing direct support to clients, but there are other opportunities available as well, including helping with fundraising, information distribution and driving.
“Our volunteers really cover all the bases. There are men and women, ages 17-80, and they come from all walks of life, which is important because people suffering dementia are just as diverse.
“We can and do support them with training in what dementia is and how to work with people who have it, but the most important thing is that people simply have a genuine interest in other people. Everything else follows from there.
“At the end of the day no one is going to say ‘Yippee! I’ve got dementia!’ but there is life after diagnosis and what we’re about is helping people make the best of what they have.
“The more we do the longer they can stay fit and healthy and mentally active, which we hope will contribute to the delay in the progression of dementia.”
More information on Town Break services and volunteering opportunities is available online at www.townbreakstirling.com or by calling 01786 447787.
A new round of volunteer training is due to start on Monday. Call as above for further details.