DS Trustee Reflections during these times;
23-06-2020 – Week 13
Just over two years ago I became a trustee of Dementia Support. A couple of months later, we opened our amazing new facility with the Countess of Wessex cutting the ribbon, and, little by little we became the blueprint of what a place for people living with dementia should be.
Fast forward 2 years and here we are. Locked down due to Covid. Our beautiful shiny hub of dementia excellence forced to close its doors and, due to social distancing, mothball itself for the foreseeable future.
Our customers, our clients -all those who had come to love and rely on Sage House as a place of tranquillity and hope… what would happen to them all?? As a new charity and innovative charity, we could react quickly – if our customers couldn’t come to us, we would “go” to them – even if just virtually. By phone, online, delivering them activity packs. We knew this time of social isolation and lockdown was going to be the hardest time for all our customers and their carers. We weren’t going to just leave them – we would alter our working practices and be there 12 hours a day on the end of a phone line or offering online coffee mornings or singalongs.
Early on in lockdown we were approached to partner up with Age UK, they had vulnerable shielding contacts who needed help and whilst they may not have had dementia we have offered our support and volunteers. Wanting to do what I could, I offered to shop. Whilst it could be said shopping is in my DNA, 2.5 hours going around the supermarket trying to make sure I got each referral their correct requests were (and still is) a challenge. I want to make sure they have exactly what they ask for – I can’t imagine being so reliant on a stranger to get me my shopping – so I try to make sure I scour the super markets for each item. It takes me ages, but the staff at the supermarket are very kind and understand I’m not just shopping for me. And by the time I have delivered to each vulnerable shielding person I’m slightly exhausted but also completely buoyed up by their genuine thankfulness and even the chance to have a socially distanced chat at the doorstep. It breaks my heart that for some of these people shielding on their own, without family or friends nearby, I am their only source of human contact that week. But it can get a bit tricky when I have deliveries of ice cream….
I am immensely proud of being part of the team at Dementia Support. Whilst we have had to furlough some staff, there are many working from home and doing an amazing job. Being a frontline service, everyone has wanted to muck in and do as much as they can. One of the services we’ve offered is the creation and distribution of activity packs. We have put these together and they’re full of puzzles, quizzes, helpful tips how to stay active and lessen the boredom that many are facing. We have had over 2000 of these printed, all needed collating and stuffing in envelopes… too much for the skeleton team still working out of Sage House to do, so with my family we have spent a few fun hours stuffing. Its mindless but necessary. The treat at the end has been delivering… again like with the shopping, the recipients are so grateful it is a pleasure to be able to help.
Although our doors are closed, our staff have remained on hand 7 days a week for our customers. We actively support over 150 people, and our phone lines have been constantly busy. In one week alone in the middle of lockdown our staff had over 1500 minutes phone time for our Wayfinding service. Last week we had 15 contacts from people completely new to the charity. Dementia Support and Sage House is clearly a vital part of many people’s lives.
Fundraising had become a real concern for all charities in this time. Many of our normal channels of raising money have had to be shelved and all businesses are tightening their own belts. We’ve had to come up with some innovative ways to fundraise. I’ve managed to hijack our local pub online quiz and make sure everyone donates. A friend and neighbour whose dear Dad is seriously missing coming to our Sage House Daybreaks services has organised an asparagus run where we collect from a wholesaler and deliver to friends and neighbours at a knock down price but still with a donation imbedded in the price. Many of our other supporters have found different ways to support us, including one doing laps of his caravan park on his mobility scooter.
Our trustee meetings have been forced to all be online and Zoom – a word (is it a verb or a noun??) we never probably knew existed before Covid that has now taken on a new resonance. I miss the social side but we seem to cover things at a greater speed online. Throughout lockdown our board meetings have always fallen on our D4D days where a fundraising initiative is to Dress Up on a Friday (think we’re all getting a bit fed up with our Athleisure wear!) and donate. Seeing fellow trustees dress up and come to an online meeting dressed as a Favourite Superhero or Pop Idol has been very entertaining. I’m not sure we would do it if we were not online…. I know many don’t feel the same but the barrier of being online somehow can give me more confidence to say what I think…. Oh, and our chairman dressing up as superman a couple of weeks back was inspirational. Thank you.
Whilst it’s been very sad that we can’t currently look after our customers in the way we normally do it has also offered us the chance to reflect and see where else we can help those living with dementia. Having cared for my mum who lived for years with dementia and watching her slowly lose the pieces of the jigsaw that made up her wonderful personality, I know just how important Sage House and Dementia Support is. I only wish it had been around when she was. Now I want to make sure as a charity we are there for all of those in our local area and indeed, looking forward, perhaps all over the country, and that everyone has the support and care they deserve wherever the journey with dementia takes them.