Older people living in Rhondda Cynon Taf are benefiting from a new programme of activities designed to improve their health and well-being within their community.
Initially the activities, delivered at the health and well-being hub at Ysbyty George Thomas in Treorchy, were part of a six week Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) programme*, where people are referred to the service by their GP. However after the programme came to an end, the people who attended said they had found it had helped them so much they requested that the group continue with the activities, which were then rolled out to include older people in the community.
Fifty-eight-year-old Gary Pethig from Gelli in the Rhondda said: “At the end of the CST programme I asked what other activities I could get involved in to keep my brain stimulated. I felt the activities I had been involved in on the programme had helped me so much it would be a shame not to continue.
“Being 58-years-old and diagnosed with early signs of dementia I wanted to help myself as much as I possible.
“Together with the team at the health and well-being centre in Ysbyty George Thomas we have, over the last few months, come up with a programme of events and activities and the group has grown considerably.
“There are activities that both men and women can enjoy. There are darts, indoor boules, knitting, crafts, singing, quizzes and more. We request people come and chat with us about any concerns they may have such as finance, pensions, future health issues we may encounter and so on.
“There’s also a dementia group that meets in Saint Matthew’s Church in Treorchy regularly. This is a great opportunity for us to chat to each other. When I first went I thought I was going to be the youngest there, it’s surprising how many people are affected by memory loss and dementia. It also gives our carers, in my case my wife, the opportunity to chat to other carers too.
“My wife is my rock, she is so supportive, I don’t know where I would be without her. There is a young carers group starting soon which my wife is keen to get involved in, it will be good for her to speak to others about how they deal with someone they love living with memory problems or dementia.”
Among other members of the group is Claud from Ferndale. Claud, is a keen historian and brings photos and memorabilia into the unit regularly to show people. Claud has 7,000 followers on his social media account so clearly other community members enjoy his displays too.
Another member of the group who attends regularly is Bryan Burridge.
Bryan, who attends the centre every week, said: “You don’t feel like you are in a hospital setting as the look of the health and well-being centre is like home. It’s friendly, relaxed and easy-going and a really good way to socialise. If I didn’t come here I wouldn’t go anywhere so being here keeps my brain active.
“It was my idea to have a Tuesday morning as social morning, it’s from 10am-12pm and we meet up have a coffee and chat about anything.”
Hayley Cartwright, dementia adviser for Cwm Taf University Health Board, said: “The group has grown from strength to strength and we see new members all the time. It’s a great way to stop older people getting lonely and isolated and brings the community together.
“The group members are the ones who suggest what activities they want to take place and what they will get most benefit out of.
“Keeping people well and active in the community and in their own homes is of much more beneficial than being on a hospital ward.
“The health and well-being hub is like home from home, people chat, have tea and coffee support each other and get involved in activities. It’s a great place to be!”
*Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) is a programme of themed activities, usually carried out over several weeks in small groups, led by a trained nurse, an occupational therapist. Each session covers a different topic and is designed to improve the mental abilities and memory of someone with dementia.