Communities are being encouraged to establish dementia cafés, which are an important resource for people living with dementia and their families.
Dementia cafés are a community-based service that provide peer support and information for people with dementia and their families, within a welcoming café atmosphere.
Currently, there are 21 such cafés across 15 counties and these have now been brought together as part of the newly launched Irish Dementia Café Network.
"Dementia cafés provide people living with dementia and their families with an informal way to meet healthcare staff and to link in with other families.
"Having a network of 21 cafés across 15 counties improves the lived experience of people with dementia and their families. I hope by launching the official model for the café network and the website www.dementiacafé.ie, this will encourage other communities to set up a dementia café," explained Dr Emer Begley, senior project manager, with the HSE's National Dementia Office.
The HSE commissioned Engaging Dementia to establish an Irish Dementia Café Network and this was undertaken with Dormant Account funding through the Department of Health.
Engaging Dementia is a registered charity that provides training and resources for those who care for people with dementia in residential care, day centres, hospitals or the family home.
"We are delighted to have managed this project. We worked with cafés nationwide and an Expert Advisory Panel, to develop a shared model for dementia cafés in Ireland, and a café network. We are looking forward to the launch of the café network and supporting current and start-up dementia cafés nationwide," commented Engaging Dementia CEO, Sinead Grennan.
Kevin Quaid is co-ordinator of the Memory Café in Kanturk in north Cork. He has Lewy body dementia, which shares characteristics with both Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
"I want the dementia café to be a safe place for people with dementia and their carers. I also want people to feel less afraid of dementia, and that it's ok not to be ok because there is help there," he said.
His wife and carer, Helena Quaid, emphasised the importance of having support structures, such as dementia cafes.
"We are so lucky here in north Cork to have dementia advisor, Amy Murphy. She supplies us with lots of brilliant informative literature that we can pass on to those in attendance and of course she also attends quite regularly herself and her input is invaluable.
"Even though our dementia café is a social get together, it is also very informative and supportive to the person with dementia and their carer," she noted.
Launching the Irish Dementia Café Network, the Junior Health Minister with responsibility for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler, explained that these cafés are "often the first step people take into formal services after they receive a dementia diagnosis".
"They have proven to be a valuable asset in their communities and the creation of a national network to assist current and future cafés in reaching out to people with dementia and family carers is most welcome," she said.
As a result of COVID-19, many of the cafés have gone online, however these follow the same principles and ethos of the café model. They are planning a safe re-opening in the coming months.
To find out more about joining a café, or setting one up in your community, click here.
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