NHS Kent and Medway and Kent County Council have commissioned a number of voluntary organisations to provide dementia cafés and peer support groups across Kent.
It builds on the success of a number of peer support groups for recently diagnosed patients and dementia cafés run by organisations such as the Alzheimer’s Society Kent and Medway and Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support Services.
It is estimated that more than 22,000 people in Kent and Medway have dementia and this figure is expected to more than double in the next 30 years. This new investment will ensure that these services will now be available in all 12 districts of Kent.
Dementia cafés are informal meeting places where people with dementia and their families can receive practical information, as well as emotional and social support. They aim to help those affected by dementia feel part of the community and talk to others facing similar issues on a daily basis.
The cafés run as a monthly afternoon session and often start with a talk on a subject to help and inform carers about the range of support and help available. This is followed by a discussion, entertainment and refreshments.
Peer support groups are small meetings which consist of patients who have recently diagnosed with dementia and wish to support and share experiences with each other.
Evelyn White, Associate Director Integrated Commissioning, NHS Kent and Medway, said: “Dementia cafés have a welcoming environment where dementia patients and their families can share their feelings with others who understand and can offer support. They help people feel less isolated and are a useful source of information for those caring for people living with dementia.
“Support groups aim to help people come to terms with their diagnosis by sharing how they feel with other patients. The groups bring people together so people are not coping alone. They also give valuable information and explain how to access the support they might need.
“As well as this investment in Kent, there has been similar investment in Medway with new dementia cafes and support groups launching this year. Medway has its own arrangements.
“This investment is part of our commitment to helping patients with dementia live well. We are planning on investing £600,000 to expand our range of services in the community so people with dementia can remain independent for as long as possible. We also plan to invest £3.5 million by April 2014 in improving mental health hospital facilities.”
Graham Gibbens, Kent County Council Cabinet member for adult social care and public health, said: “Getting the right support is vital for those who are living with dementia. Without that support, there is a real risk that people are isolated, with the frustration and despair that brings. The right services can help provide quality of life, support and a sense of community.
“Alongside these services, early diagnosis is vital. Getting this right is something that very much depends on GPs, and the clinical commissioning groups that will support them.
“With the health service being so crucial in helping to support those with dementia, I am very pleased that the county council and the NHS are working together to provide services that will make a difference and I look forward to hearing about how they are helping people.”
To help people find out about symptoms and local services, Kent and Medway has a dedicated dementia website, please visit http://www.dementiawebkentandmedway.org.uk
If you need to talk to someone about dementia, whether you have been diagnosed or care for someone with dementia, please call the 24-hour free and confidential helpline on 0800 500 3014. The helpline offers information and support for a range of issues, such as bereavement, relationship problems, loneliness, isolation and stress.
Case study

Pauline Palmer, 78, from South Darenth, cares for her husband John, 81, who has vascular dementia.
Pauline said: “John was diagnosed with dementia in 2010 after a referral from our GP to a geriatric doctor at Darent Valley Hospital.
“He hadn’t been himself. He found it hard to remember things and had irrational thoughts about the safety and security of the home.”
“When he was diagnosed, it was a relief to be able to put a name to it.
“John was a systems analyst for an insurance company and an amateur botanist. He has seen more than 3,000 different varieties of wild flowers, trees and grasses in the UK.
“Sadly, he has lost a whole section of memory. He can’t remember the names of wild flowers and plants anymore, let alone the Latin names. He can find everyday things difficult, such as dressing himself, and gets confused.
“He’s accepted he has dementia but gets very frustrated. We have good and bad days when he can be quite depressed.
“We’ve had a long and happy life together and have been married 56 years. I love him very much but when you live with someone with dementia, you can feel exhausted. I am on call 24/7. While my son and daughter help, they work in London.
“We’ve been going regularly to the dementia cafés in Dartford and Swanley run by ADSS since they started in April 2010. It’s nice to be able to go out and talk to other people and it gives a change of environment.
“There’s a lot of information shared at the cafés, such as how to deal with power of attorney and keep financial and legal affairs in order. We also exercise to music, such as Zumba, and have entertainment and talks. And let’s not forget the important part – the tea and cake!
“I’ve met so many people and I know I am lucky that John’s illness hasn’t advanced as far as some. Meeting people caring for those in the latter stages of dementia gives me an insight and ideas of how to cope when his dementia progresses.
“I really appreciate the cafés. They are a lifeline. They put you in touch with all the help that is available and which I might not have known about before.”
North Kent

Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support Services (ADSS) will be running dementia cafés in Dartford, Gravesham and Sevenoaks and peer support groups in Dartford and Gravesham. For more information on locations and meeting dates, call 01474 533990.
South Kent
Alzheimer’s Society Kent and Medway will be running dementia cafés in Ashford and Dover and peer support groups in Ashford, Shepway and Dover. For more information, call 08450 405919.
Shepway Volunteer Centre is running a dementia café in Shepway, call 01303 259007 for venue information and meeting times.
Maidstone and west Kent
Alzheimer’s Society Kent and Medway are also running dementia cafés in Maidstone, Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge and Malling and peer support groups in Sevenoaks, Maidstone, Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge and Malling. For more information on locations and meeting dates, call 01892 559410.
East Kent
Age UK Herne Bay is running dementia cafés and peer support groups in Canterbury and Swale – call 01227 749570 for more information on locations and meeting dates.
East Kent Independent Dementia Support is running a dementia café in Thanet, call 01227 730000 for venue information and meeting dates.
Thanet Resource Centre is running a dementia peer support group in Thanet, call 01843 294229 for more information.