Serving comfort with the coffee

(from the left) Christine and Tom Brennan, Margaret and Ted Hever and Christine and Henry Walmsley at The Bridge Memory Cafe
(from the left) Christine and Tom Brennan, Margaret and Ted Hever and Christine and Henry Walmsley at The Bridge Memory Cafe

FEELINGS of isolation and a fear of what lies ahead are common among people newly-diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease - and their carers.

But a new group meeting in Brighouse aims to provide friendship, support and advice for those with memory problems. The Bridge Memory Cafe meets every fortnight at the Civic Hall, Brighouse. Started last September, it is already proving a valued resource.

Kath Mashinter and Wendy MacDonald from The Bridge Memory Cafe with Margaret Thomason and her carer Joan Shaw.

Kath Mashinter and Wendy MacDonald from The Bridge Memory Cafe with Margaret Thomason and her carer Joan Shaw.

The cafe is run by the Alzheimer’s Society along with volunteers from Brighouse Evangelical Church and regularly attracts up to 25 people.

Wendy MacDonald, of the Alzheimer’s Society in Calderdale, said: “We have been encouraged by the number of people who have got involved and come along faithfully to help in lots of different ways.

“Dementia is a very isolating condition - people don’t know what to expect when they are diagnosed and it really helps to talk to others in the same situation.

“We try to help them get the support they need to lead as normal a life as possible. They can still lead a full life and have an enjoyable time. Alzheimer’s and dementia affect around 2,500 people in Calderdale and as the ageing population grows, these conditions are going to have an impact on more and more people.”

The Bridge Memory Cafe grew out of an idea first proposed by Kath Mashinter and Irene Naylor, of Brighouse Evangelical Church, who were aware that there was a need to provide support and advice for people with memory problems and their carers.

Kath works part-time as an occupational therapist for Kirklees Memory Service and both her mother and grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease. After Kath and the Rev Steven Bowers, of Brighouse Evangelical Church, visited the successful Daffodil Cafe, run by the Alzheimer’s Society in Halifax, last March, it was decided to extend the service to Brighouse. The church funds the use of the room in the Civic Hall for meetings twice a month.

Said Wendy: “We had a couple of sessions for interested volunteers in the summer and held our first open afternoon and cafe in September. It has taken off really well. New friendships have been made and it gives people the chance to relax in a social setting.”

Tom Brennan, of Rastrick, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years ago and regularly attends the cafe with his wife Christine. She said: “I am Tom’s main carer and it is a 24-hours-a-day job. We have been coming to the cafe since it started and find it very useful. Not knowing what lies ahead can be very unsettling and it’s good to talk to people who understand.”

Ted and Margaret Hever, of Southowram, are also big fans of the cafe. Ted, who has Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, enjoys the chance to get out and meet new people. He is organising a fund-raising concert for the Alzheimer’s Society at the Victoria Theatre, Halifax, in June.

“Everyone’s so friendly and so helpful. It’s become a bit of a lifeline for us,” said Margaret.

Before Christmas the group held a carol concert and music often plays an important part in the cafe sessions. “Several of our members can sing and they love to entertain the others with songs from the old days,” said Wendy.

Nationwide there is a network of almost 100 cafes with more than 2,000 people attending each month. They provide an opportunity for people with memory problems to ‘go out’ and socialise with friends and family, to find out what support and help is available and to enjoy talks on a wide range of topics.

Kath Shaw, aged 79 of Cleckheaton, cares for her good friend Margaret Thomason. “We love coming here,” she said. “There is a nice relaxed atmosphere and everyone is glad to see us.”

FACTFILE

l One in three people over the age of 65 will die with dementia.

l There is a network of almost 100 dementia cafes throughout the country.

l The Bridge Memory Cafe meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month from 2pm to 4pm at Brighouse Civic Hall.

l For further information on Calderdale Alzheimer’s Society contact 01422 352789.

l The National Dementia Helpline is available on 0845 300 0336.