Sunderland dementia charity bringing respite and care

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‘Dog walkers charge more by the hour than we do’

Staff at the excellent North East Dementia Care in Pennywell.Staff at the excellent North East Dementia Care in Pennywell.
Staff at the excellent North East Dementia Care in Pennywell.

In Dementia Action Week, a Sunderland-based charity is looking for more people living with the condition to come along to enjoy activities, meals and mutual support.

North East Dementia Care (NEDC) was founded in 2019 by Sandra Falkner who also chairs the charity. She cared for husband Billy, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in his 50s and who passed away in 2015 aged 67.

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The charity is based at the shopping centre at Portsmouth Road in Pennywell (near Asda). People attend between one and five days a week.

Its sessions offer companionship, meals and, crucially, respite for carers who can take a break knowing their loved ones are in good, professional hands.

There are reminiscence activities used to evoke memories, improve mood and overall well being, plus arts and craft sessions which increase cognitive function and self-expression.

Attendees enjoy picture bingo and dominoes, which help with socialising, interaction and also increase thought processes.

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Music provides sing-along entertainment or singing therapy sessions. Both can help someone living with dementia to relive happy memories, while improving confidence and happiness.

Group exercises improve strength and balance, increase confidence and provide opportunities for social interaction.

Pre-assessments are done with families before people attend, to see what sort of support is on offer for those living with dementia. The carers are vastly experienced and look after people currently aged from 46 to 96.

However, one staff member is needed for every four people attending.

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NEDC covers the whole of the city of Sunderland and has a pick-up minibus, but can't cover everywhere, although carers can drop off or use Dial-a-Driver which is cheaper than taxis.

Day care manager Deborah Watson said: "Sometimes I go out to pre-assess and they're lonely - isolation, depression.

"Then they come here and we see the improvement. Families say they can sleep better. They're more engaged with life I suppose."

Sandra said: "A lot of people don't realise that we are a charity and that if people don't attend, we don't get paid. That's where we struggle. If people are away, we don't get an income.

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"Unfortunately, people pass away and it takes us a while to get numbers back up.

"We get money from the local authority to help look after people who are on benefits.

"From June 3rd it's £75 per day. We go on the bus in the morning and start picking up. People are entertained and have their lunch with us.

"We do arts and crafts and sing and dance with them on an afternoon. Then they're taken home at three o'clock.

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Staff at the charity have been raising funds themselves.Staff at the charity have been raising funds themselves.
Staff at the charity have been raising funds themselves.

Deborah added: "Some people have carers going out four times a day. Our cost is a lot cheaper than that. Dog walkers charge more by the hour than we do."

Dementia Action Week runs from May 13-19. NEDC can be contacted for more information on 07585 381336. Donations can be made via their website, or in the shop next door.

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