‘Entreprenurses’ Changing the Face of Dementia in Communities

As Dementia became the UK’s biggest killer in 2017, overtaking heart disease for the first time, Tom Crook, Senior Investment Analyst for the Health & Wellbeing Challenge (SW) Fund talks to one of the Fund’s investees “Memory Matters”.  He discusses how the two specialist dementia nurses that set up this community interest company, Laura Walker and Kate Smith, are changing the face of dementia support in the community using therapeutic approaches to memory loss and dementia, helping both people living with dementia and carers alike.

It is a sad fact that one in three people over the age of 65 in the UK will be diagnosed with dementia.  Today there are approximately 650,000 people living with dementia in this country and this is estimated to double over the next 30 years, so it is unsurprising that many elderly people fear dementia more than a cancer diagnosis.

So it was encouraging for our team at Resonance to meet an organization run by two enthusiastic and optimistic people, which is having a direct positive impact on those with whom it works.  Champions of Cognitive Stimulation Therapy, a talking therapy proven to slow the progression of dementia, Kate and Laura started Memory Matters www.memorymatterssw.co.uk. They had identified a need to support people living at home with dementia, by providing a service both on a one-to-one basis and in a group community setting.

Memory Matters provides training course to health workers caring for those with dementia but they also run Activity Day Clubs in the community to enable those living with dementia to access Cognitive Stimulation Therapy and meet others living with the same condition. The clubs are lively, fun places to be with therapy interwoven into the day without anyone even noticing. Some of the clubs also support people to problem solve issues such as, what to do about cold callers on the telephone or how to keep a diary instead of having to remember things or learning a new skill.  The organization continues to improve what it offers, developing its services after listening to those living with the condition and their carers.  Staff at Memory Matters contribute their own experience and insight and one particular story came from Phillippa, about a gentleman she was nursing called John.  There is a link below if you’d like to read more about John’s story.

Kate and Laura’s newest initiative was the opening of the Moments Café a year ago, which acts as an information hub about dementia and all statutory, voluntary and community sector organizations are represented free of charge for the benefit of the public.  The café, which was designed by people living with dementia and aims to reduce the stigma of the illness, is open to the public and anyone can pop in for a cuppa or a freshly made meal.  It is themed on different decades and is not only a trip down memory lane for many but is a calming, friendly atmosphere for all.

This single point of access for those seeking information and support is free and no appointment is required.  A massive 65,000 people visited the café in its first year and over 200 people accessed the free support service. Having made national news, it was listed in the top three innovative and collaborative dementia organizations in the country.

The Health & Wellbeing Challenge Fund is backing Memory Matters with an initial investment of £10,000, to help it reach more people across the region living from dementia as it develops its inspirational project to make it more accessible.   I am really pleased we have been able to support Memory Matters; it is clear that it is delivering a great service for communities in the South West. I am looking forward to working with Kate and Laura in the future and seeing how they continue to widen their offering.

Memory Matters has received well deserved local and national recognition:

  • Winner – Best Customer Service – Plymouth Herald Business Awards 2017
  • Finalist in Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friendly Awards 2017 for Collaboration
  • Dementia Care Awards Finalist 2017 for Innovation

Kate and Laura are just the sort of inspiring social impact entrepreneurs that the Health & Wellbeing Challenge Fund (SW) was designed to help.  We would like to speak to you if you are a social enterprise in the South West that is making a difference to the health and wellbeing of people in your community.  Please give me a call on 07532 397869 or my colleague Leila Sharland on 07894 238978.

Link to John’s story