We live in an age of technology where significant importance has been placed on sharing our thoughts online with others – how many of us regularly share and save our memories, statuses, updates with others on a daily basis? Imagine for a minute, that you were not able to do that anymore. Imagine that you were not able to communicate at all. Think about how frustrated you’d feel if you couldn’t remember what you did yesterday, everyday. In an age where communication has seemingly never been easier, the fact that there is still no cure for a disease that gradually erases the personality traits and memories of the people we love the most has never been more unsettling. Alzheimer’s is a word that most of us fear, a word that is often associated with stereotypes of old age and confusion, a word that isn’t talked about enough.
For people who find their friends and relatives confronted with the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, turning their back on the situation or hoping for a miracle cure is simply not an option. In time, the wife or husband, sibling or parent of an Alzheimer’s sufferer will find themselves becoming a caregiver to their loved one. It’s a situation that can happen to anyone – your neighbour, your grandparents or even to your brother or sister. Caring for someone with dementia can be lonely, frustrating and unpredictable.
Step in the Guernsey Alzheimer’s Association – at The Delancey Centre on Rue des Monts in the parish of St Sampson; there is a veritable refuge for carers. The centre holds regular social gatherings for caregivers (who can also bring along their partners to sessions,) giving them a chance to get a few hours respite from being the sole care provider to their relative, giving them the chance to relax, chat and unwind in an environment, which offers ‘empathy, companionship and support’. Social events with other people who understand what it is like to experience the effects of Alzheimer’s are in many ways, a lifeline. Other carers and volunteers at the centre will not judge or be thrown by the sometimes unpredictable and strange behaviour of a sufferer – because they’ve seen it all before. Having such a special and valuable support network can help carers to cope with the pressures of supporting a partner with an illness and in many cases, can give them the strength and empowerment to carry on caring. In the words of Josie, a former carer who still regularly attends sessions at the centre, without the help and understanding that she received at Delancey during her husband’s illness, she would have found her situation considerably more difficult to deal with.
If you walk past The Delancey Centre on a Friday afternoon, don’t be surprised to hear the sound of beautiful voices singing in unison. The centre regularly runs ‘Singing down Memory Lane’ sessions, afternoons of musical activities that prove therapeutic for sufferers of Alzheimer’s and carers alike. From wartime songs to hits from the musicals – there’s a song for everyone’s tastes. If music isn’t your forte, there are still other activities to get involved in at the centre every Monday and alternate Wednesdays. Delancey has a great library and selection of board games – from scrabble to euchre, books on Guernsey days gone by to Harry Potter, there is an activity for everyone, from any generation. You can even just sit and catch up with a cup of tea and a slice of cake – at every session you will be treated with kindness, dignity and understanding. The centre’s phones are manned each and every day and people are also able to contact someone who can offer confidential support by email – ‘A request for help will always be answered quickly’.
In 2010 the Guernsey Alzheimer’s Association received from Her Majesty the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, an award that speaks volumes. Caring means giving your love, time and patience to someone in need – and at the Delancey Centre, the wellbeing and needs of the carers who give their love and support to those who can’t always ask for it or show their appreciation themselves will never be overlooked. All money donated to the association goes directly to supporting islanders within the bailiwick – and if you find yourself with an hour to spare of a Monday afternoon, why not pop into the centre? Every smile and supportive gesture can make a difference.
Words: Louise Le Pelley