New day services supporting people with dementia and their carers have opened in Richmond.
North Yorkshire charity Dementia Forward has taken on the day service at Garget Walker House in the town.
On Friday, Richmond MP and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak officially opened the service.
The town has been without locally-based day services for almost a year.
Officials say the new service takes a modern, flexible approach catering to individual needs.
“We say ‘it is not about a circle of winged armchairs’,” said Jill Quinn, chief executive officer of Dementia Forward.
“There is a place for that, but this is about a very flexible approach to activity to suit each of the individuals coming to the centre.
“That might be a game of table tennis, but it could be knitting. It is so varied.”
The charity says it has ten years’ experience and its approach has been tried and tested at its centre in Burton Leonard, near Ripon.
The charity has also just opened up in Settle and will have a facility in Pocklington within a few weeks.
It provides a wraparound service from pre-diagnosis to end of life and currently supports thousands of people in North Yorkshire, using a combination of trained staff and trained volunteers.
The centre at Garget Walker House will open five days a week, with opening days varying according to need.
It will also provide a service unique to Dementia Forward in North Yorkshire for people with young onset dementia, that is people diagnosed under the age of 65.
This will be a more physical group of contemporaries, using leisure centres, swimming, cycling and long walks, as well as the centre.
Dementia Forward will also run advice and information clinics from the building.
Rishi Sunak said: “The return of dementia day services in Garget Walker House is very welcome news for those suffering from this debilitating condition and those who support them.
“I’ve been pleased to offer my assistance to the Friends of Garget Walker House to help get the service up and running again and it is very gratifying that the Friends, Dementia Forward, the county council and the local NHS have worked together so effectively to bring this about.”
County Councillor Michael Harrison, executive member for adult services and health integration, said: “I am very pleased to see the opening of Garget Walker House to support the people of Richmond.
“It is a welcome return of vital services in the area and I look forward to seeing these develop and grow.
“The council, along with other professionals, volunteers and the Friends of Garget Walker House, acknowledges the importance of having a local service in Richmond and the opening of Garget Walker House has been a truly collaborative effort.
“The work we have done in partnership with Dementia Forward across North Yorkshire has been hugely supported by local residents and has helped many carers and families of those living with dementia. This collaborative work is enabling us to meet the intentions we set out in the Bring Me Sunshine dementia strategy to enhance our offer on a countywide basis.”
Cllr Stuart Parsons, County Councillor for Richmond, said: “It’s great to see Garget Walker House back open for business.
“The last year has been a very worrying time for service users, their families and the Friends. I supported the Friends with a grant to help protect and store their property and it is wonderful to see things back in their place.”
Nick Howard, who cares for his wife, who has young onset dementia, said: “The Dementia Forward hub at Burton Leonard has been a favourite place for us for some time now. It’s a friendly and informal place, where we know we’re always welcome, and a real focal point for all activities.
“We’ve used the hub clubs, played games, attended social events and fundraisers, but most of all it’s knowing the kettle is always on and there will be helpful staff and volunteers able to bring a bit of cheer even on the darkest days. Just arriving at the hub is enough to lift the spirits!”
Despite Garget Walker House being closed for some time during the pandemic, Dementia Forward maintained support to people locally.
This has included advice and information to carers and families of those living with dementia, coordinating their Café in a Box programme and delivering one-to-one support to the community. This proved essential to many families when restrictions prevented people from coming together.
Anyone in need of Dementia Forward’s support can call the helpline on 03300 578592.