09 May 2018
Nora McCready aged 62 from Saltcoats is a volunteer befriender for social care charity Quarriers in Saltcoats, Ayrshire and is calling on like-minded people to follow her example.
Dementia is a growing issue in today’s society and affects an estimated 86,000 people in Scotland. One major impact of this is an increase in loneliness and isolation. Statistics show that loneliness is as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day* and it is estimated to kill more people than obesity**.
Many older people affected by dementia can increasingly find themselves relying on a small circle of friends and family, and become isolated from their community and the activities they enjoy. For many elderly people living with dementia, getting out and about on a regular basis without some kind of support can simply seem too daunting a task.
Quarriers Dementia Befriending Service in North Ayrshire opened three years ago. This work is supported with funding from the Life Changes Trust. The Trust is funded by the Big Lottery Fund. The service works with befrienders to provide companionship, allowing people with dementia to maintain their independence and stay as mentally and physically active as possible.
The service carefully matches befrienders with someone who shares similar interests to ensure a strong bond is formed. Befriender Nora has been matched with 89-year-old Rena McKinlay from Saltcoats, who lives with dementia. Every week, they go out together for coffee, a walk or a spot of window-shopping along the local high-street.
Befriender Nora said: “When I met Rena it was meant to be a brief introduction but it went so well we just ran with it as we hit it off instantly. Rena enjoys the company and she definitely enjoys the change of scene. She’s very sociable and likes to meet people. I just think she’s a character. I get as much out of being a befriender to Rena, if not more, than Rena gets out of it.”
Maintaining a consistent routine is key to helping people with dementia manage the day-to-day aspects of their condition.
Nora said: “I see Rena once a week on a Monday but if I can’t manage a Monday I try and make sure that I take her out on the Tuesday so she’s got some contact at least every week.”
As well as putting a strain on the individual, dementia affects the lives of friends and family who are concerned for the well-being of their loved one, and this can be hard to juggle with the everyday realities of work and life.
Nora said: “I used to care for my mum and I know the difference it made to me when my sister or friend would come over to watch my mum and let me go out. It gives Rena’s son more time to himself knowing that his mum’s safe, she’s doing something she likes and she’s with someone who’s going to look after her so he can have a bit of breathing space.”
Nora is keen to encourage other people to sign up and make a difference to the lives of older people with dementia across North Ayrshire: “It sounds a bit corny but you feel like you’re giving something back, plus its good fun. The best thing about it is when I see Rena smiling and laughing.”
If you would like to get involved and help to deliver this valuable service, Quarriers is looking for more dementia befriender volunteers across North Ayrshire.
To apply for a position as a befriender or for further information please contact:
Quarriers Volunteer Centre
Tel: 01505 616100
Pictured: Nora McCready and Rena McKinlay.