The Déise Dementia Café is staged at The Hub Café at St John’s College, The Folly on the first Friday of every month.A CAFÉ with a difference is proving to be a very welcome and beneficial addition to Waterford. The Déise Dementia Café is a warm and inviting place to sit, chat, relax and enjoy good company.It provides support for people experiencing memory loss as well as their family and friends Participants meet on the first Friday of every month from 10.30am to noon at The Hub Café which is located within the beautifully restored St John’s College, The Folly.Housing association Respond! restored St John’s College with the aim of delivering high quality homes and support services for older people and people with specific needs and requirements.
Group pictured enjoying tea and coffee at the Déise Dementia Café at St John’s College, The Folly.
The Hub Café is an extension of this plan and delivers an affordable quality service for those living within St John’s College as well as the wider Waterford community.The café plays host to a number of different community gatherings and is the perfect location for an initiative such as the Déise Dementia Café. Sessions are free of charge and open to whoever wants to attend with no obligation to attend every gathering.In this comfortable and non-judgmental environment, participants can enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and a scone and the chance to meet people who may be experiencing a similar situation.There is no set format and participants are involved in deciding the events which take place. Based on the feedback received, a number of different guest speakers have visited to discuss issues such as diet, memory technology and the Fair Deal Scheme. Last Friday, the café’s June gathering was staged. Occupational Therapist Catherine Murphy was on hand to explain the origins of the initiative.
“We realised there were a lack of social outlets for the elderly – not just people experiencing memory loss,” she said. It was decided to establish a service in a public café which could be “integrated into the community”.
The Déise Dementia Café was introduced by the HSE and Waterford Integrated Care Programme for Older People (WICOP). Catherine hopes the initiative will contribute to ongoing efforts to “break the stigma” surrounding such issues and help people to lead independent lives.Last October, the café was staged for four consecutive weeks as part of a pilot project.
It was subsequently decided to hold the Déise Dementia Cafe on the first Friday of each month at St John’s College, The Folly and on the third Thursday of every month at The Park Hotel, Dungarvan. “We wouldn’t have had enough funding to provide this through the HSE so we decided to develop it as a collaboration with private carers and it’s been great to have Home Instead on board,” she said. Danette Connolly of Home Instead Senior Care said they were delighted to get involved when the HSE approached them when seeking a sponsor for the initiative. Home Instead cover the costs associated with the Déise Dementia Cafe, including teas and coffees, printing of materials etc. and actively promote the initiative.
Pointing out that care of the aged will present a huge challenge in the future, Danette says such partnerships are crucial. “The HSE alone cannot deliver on that challenge,” she said.
“It’s going to take a lot of partnerships with private providers and non-profit providers as part of a team effort.”
She says the Déise Dementia Café also serves an important purpose by providing an opportunity for Home Instead representatives to link in with HSE representatives.
Mark Bourke from Home Instead describes the partnership as a “perfect fit for us”.
As Home Instead carers are regularly meeting and interacting with people in their homes, he says they are well placed to recommend and suggest the Déise Dementia Café where appropriate. George and Eileen Harvey are regulars at the café and were also in attendance on Friday last. George recently experienced some medical issues but is now back leading a normal life. Eileen is full of praise for all the medical care George has received and says the café has been a welcome bonus.She describes the café as a great social outlet and says the monthly gatherings present the opportunity to meet and get to know many other people.
“There’s plenty of help out there but, until we came here, we didn’t know about it,” she said.
“When you hear other stories, you realise you’re not in as dark a place as others might be. Everyone says they’re glad they came and that they feel that they’re getting something from it.”
George and Eileen are also regular attendees at ‘The Mindful Chorus – A Choir to Remember’.
This community choir, which meets every Monday at the Waterford Centre of Music, Tycor Business Centre, encourages participants to sing their way down memory lane. The volunteer run choir is completely free of charge and especially welcomes those with memory loss problems along with their carers and family members. Peggy Barron and husband Tom have been attending the Déise Dementia Café since it first opened. “It’s a difficult illness as it progresses so it’s great to meet other people,” she says. “You can discuss your problems with others who may be in a similar position.”Peggy aims to ensure that Tom, who has been living with dementia for four years, attends as regularly as possible. “He likes to get out and about and it’s important to interact with other people,” she says. As they reside in a rural area, Peggy says it’s great to have such an outlet.
“In every sense, it has done an awful lot for us.” Geriatrician at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) Professor Riona Mulcahy works with patients experiencing memory loss. She has been part of a research group which has made significant achievements in examining dementia and the benefits of nutrition in delaying or reducing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
She believes strongly in a policy of ‘use it, don’t lose it’. “Very often, when people get a little forgetful, they withdraw from social activities as they may have trouble remembering names or what to do,” she said. “That withdrawal means you are using your brain less. Using your brain less means activity slows down.” Prof Mulcahy says memory related issues are becoming increasingly common as age is a major risk factor. She points out that in addition to the impact on the individual experiencing memory loss there is also an impact on a wider circle.
“For everyone with Alzheimer’s, at least three people are affected,” she said. “It’s important to have the correct supports. There are plenty of supports out there, but they aren’t linked well enough.”
She is delighted at the success of the Déise Dementia Café and would like to see more patients incorporating such social activities into their everyday routine.“For a long time, there was a lack of discussion and a lack of information. It shouldn’t be the case that once you develop this condition you withdraw from social life,” she said. “This is a nice, relaxed forum in which you can get lots of information, meet other people and hear about the resources which are available. This whole initiative is about bringing people together, socialising, keeping people involved and realising that life goes on.”Prof Mulcahy and her colleagues have visited at different stages as have other guest speakers. She says it’s important that specific issues such as the importance of diet are addressed as dietary habits can change with the onset of memory loss issues. Prof Mulcahy would also like to see the Déise Dementia Café service becoming more accessible for others.“There are huge challenges for people to get to places like this,” she said.
“It’s great if you have a family member who can travel with you but there are many who may not have access to transport who would love to be part of this. Initiatives like this are great as they keep the patient central and also keep their families involved.” Home Instead are also keen to see the Déise Dementia Café spread to other communities and are working at ensuring the Dungarvan café can become as established as its city counterpart.
The initiative is already proving very beneficial in acting as an informal link to the HSE and allowing people to learn useful information in a relaxed setting.Additional services which people are learning about include the HSE Memory Technology Resource Room based at St Patrick’s Hospital which is set up to allow people with memory difficulties, as well as their family and friends, to try a range of products intended to make independent living easier.
These include assistive technology tools such as memory aids, orientation aids and safety devices.
During a visit to the Resource Room, which is free of charge, a health professional will also be on hand to discuss issues. Catherine Murphy also hopes that the Déise Dementia Café can spread to other communities. “This is only the first step,” she said.“There’s still a long way to go to make it a full community effort.” The proof of the success of the Déise Dementia Café can be seen in the high regard it is held by all those who attend on a regular basis. With a team of such dedicated individuals working together in a collaborative manner, it’s sure to continue its important role in local community life.

For more information on the Déise Dementia Café call Catherine on 087-7794265 or check out the Facebook page.