Today we are shining a spotlight on Alzheimers Marlborough, one of our many member organisations. We spoke with Diane Tolley (Manager) about what Alzheimers Marlborough does ...
What does Alzheimers Marlborough do in the community?
We run three different Day Clubs from the Centre at 8 Wither Road - the Wither Road Club, the Cafe Club, and the Menz Club. These are primarily to give care partners respite, and for the people living with dementia a chance to get together with others for socialisation and stimulation.
Club members are picked up in our van and arrive at the centre in time for morning tea time. We provide a range of activities throughout the day, including physical and cognitive stimulation and music therapy. For example, the mornings include walking for wellness, with the distance groups walk dependant on ability.
The Wither Road Club operates each day with up to 18 people attending. People living with dementia attend between one to three days a week, at no cost to attend thanks to funding from NMDHB. A cooked meal is also provided at lunch time.
The Cafe Club and the Men's Clubs both operate one day a week. Some activities are held at the Centre and others in the community. For example, the Cafe Club ladies have recently been to the Picton Library to participate in a shared book group and the Menz Club members have played pool at the Clubs of Marlborough.
Everything we do is about normalising dementia and removing that stigma so that people in the community realise that these are still normal people, they're just dealing with something that can make certain things difficult.
To run the Day Clubs we have a huge reliance on our wonderful team of volunteers, including the drivers who support our paid staff.
In addition to the Day Clubs we also employ staff to provide support for people affected by dementia in the community. This support includes information, education, and monthly support and social groups for care partners/families. Providing the opportunity for people to get to know others who are in a similar situation and build a support network.
Currently we have 61 people living with dementia attending our Day Clubs and 88 making use of our community services. This, of course, only includes those who have been officially diagnosed. Many people are not aware that they have dementia and put their forgetfulness down to the aging process.
How did you first get involved with Alzheimers Marlborough?
I have been involved with the organisation since 2011 in one capacity or another. Beginning when my mum moved from Palmerston North to live with us and attended the Forget-me-Not Club, as it was referred in those days. It wasn’t long before I was shoulder tapped to join the committee and eventually took on the role of President. I moved into the position of Manager about four and a half years ago. It's definitely something near and dear to my heart.
What has surprised you most about working with Alzheimers Marlborough?
The organisational culture which has been nurtured over many years by previous staff and committee members. Where empathetic staff and volunteers continually strive to provide the best service possible for the people affected by dementia in our community. We couldn’t open our doors without the fantastic people who volunteer for us, not only in the Day Clubs and driving, but also assisting with maintaining our facilities and fundraising.
What do you find most challenging about your work and the role of Alzheimers Marlborough in the community?
How do you best get that message across that these are normal people but they have a disease that is affecting them. For many of us, until you're in that position yourself or with a loved one, you may not fully understand what it is like to be affected by dementia. It's all about breaking down the stigma and normalising the condition.
When we talk about stigma, one of the things that comes up a lot is that their friends don't come visit or they feel like their friends have abandoned them and don't have the same contact with them anymore. They'd like the friendships to continue. From a personal standpoint, the biggest challenges are time to do everything we want to do to support people and the funding with which to do it.
What do you wish other people knew about Alzheimers Marlborough?
We would love to support more people early in their dementia journey. I wish there was no shame or stigma attached to dementia and that people felt comfortable seeking help from Alzheimers Marlborough when they need it. We have an ageing population in Marlborough and unless there is a miracle cure we are going to see more people with dementia who require support. People need to be encouraged to seek support, the earlier the better, in order to live well with dementia. A huge positive is that more families are seeking a diagnosis nowadays and talking about dementia.
What do you think / hope will change about Alzheimers Marlborough over the next 5 years?
I'd like to see us offer services that are aligned to the varied needs of people living with dementia. For example, I like to be physically active and if it were me I would like to join a group where I could go for a bike ride or walk rather than sitting and doing indoor activities because that's more me. To be able to offer people living with dementia a more person-centred service would be truly amazing!
What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering here?
You will make new friends! The staff are wonderful to work with and the people who attend the Day Clubs are well loved by us all. A caring nature and the ability to relate well to older people are the main requirements for anyone considering volunteering for us.
What is the best thing to happen since you started working with Alzheimers Marlborough?
The needs of the people living with dementia comes first with the services being much more person-centered now.
Is there anything else you would like people to know?
Alzheimers Marlborough is a wonderful organisation to be involved with and we appreciate the great support received from the local community.