On 30 June 2014 a small band of people from varying backgrounds met together at Sunrise Senior Living for the initial meeting of the steering committee of Dementia Friendly Chorleywood. The group was made up of representatives from the Chorleywood Residents Association, The Parish Council, Turberville Solicitors, Chorleywood Magazine, U3A, Sunrise Senior Living, Home Instead Senior Care and the local Police and Fire Service.
At the meeting, committee Chair Melanie Allen, explained her reason for convening the group following an emotional visit to an Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Café in Tring. The visit had left a considerable mark on Melanie who felt she wanted to contribute to Prime Minister David Cameron’s campaign to create dementia friendly communities up and down the breadth of Great Britain. As the Business Development Manager for Sunrise Senior Living she knew the area of Chorleywood well, and was aware that the area was currently not served by many dementia support groups. With the town being labelled “the happiest place to live in England” Melanie was sure the community would embrace the initiative of working to live well with dementia.
Over several months our committee grew in size with retailers, health professionals and families living with dementia coming on board. There was lots of support from Gayl Staines of The Alzheimer’s Society who guided us as we signed up to the Dementia Action Alliance. We were also joined one evening by Cllr John Allen from Tring Town Council, who had already set up a dementia friendly community in Tring and gave us lots of advice on the successes and pitfalls of such an initiative.
By Christmas 2014 we were able to make our first public presence at the Chorleywood Trader’s Christmas Event, raising funds as well as making the community aware of whom we were. From there it was decided that our future plan of action would be to create a series of leaflets, based on ones already planned in Tring, that would offer information and support to those in the community living with dementia on subjects such as what is dementia and what does one do following a diagnosis; care at home or in a nursing home; support for carers and legal and financial advice. Our three Dementia Champions, Jacqui Sheppard, Melanie Allen and Dr Tammaryn Lashley also set up a plan of action to offer Dementia Friends sessions to the community in order to raise awareness and understanding of the condition and to raise the number of Dementia Friends in the Chorleywood.
The one major project for the group would be the creation of a Memory Café run for those living with dementia and their carers, in order to offer a place of support, understanding and signposting for other resources.