Forget-Me-Not Club are helping dementia sufferers

Forget-Me-Not club at Towneley Garden Centre cafe ('s')
Forget-Me-Not club at Towneley Garden Centre cafe ('s')

A social club established to allow clients, some of whom suffer from dementia, at Burnley’s numerous care homes to socialise has kick-started a monthly tradition, holding regular themed events at the Towneley Garden Centre café.

The garden centre plays host to the Forget-Me-Not Club, which was set up by Kathy Rhodes, owner of the Ashmeade Residential Care Home on Padiham Road, in 2014 to allow residents to mingle and enjoy the change of environment.

Having encountered difficulty in finding appropriate places for the clients – who cannot travel far, can only spend a few hours away and who require specialist facilities – after a venue double-booked Ashmeade for their St Patrick’s Day celebrations, Kathy was determined to solve the issue once and for all.

Ashmeade manager, Lorraine Haslam said: “We used to go to Oswaldtwistle Mills because the clients could go shopping and you’ve got the cafe which is all one one level, easy access to toilets, plenty of room for wheelchairs – it was brilliant. But they double booked us, and we had to disappoint the clients.”

But the Forget-Me-Not Club soon found a home after the St Paddy’s Day disappointment, as Towneley Garden Centre came to the rescue. “We spoke to the lady at Towneley, and she said ‘why don’t you fetch them down here, I’m sure I can do something?’, so that’s what we did,” said Lorraine.

After completing a year’s study at the University of Bradford on dementia, Lorraine is adamant that the virtues of social interaction extend beyond just enjoying communal activities.

“I realised a long time ago that the people we were getting had dementia,” she said.

“We needed to do the training, we needed to know how to care for them and how they work, and it’s changed a lot of things in the home, including socially.

“I was looking to start some sort of social club for the dementia initiative, but that was just for our ladies.

“So we started to open it up to other places.

“And then we thought, why can’t we do something on a monthly basis?”

And that’s just what they did.

The Forget-Me-Not Club, complete with musicians, decorations and customary tea and cakes, is now open to a wide range of local establishments, including Oaklands Nursing Homes, Willowbank Care Centre, Oakmount House, Victoria Nursing Home, Chapel Lodge Care Home and Abiden Rest Home.

Kathy Rhodes said: “Although attendance was slow at first, it is now well attended most months.

“The clients and carers have become friends and it’s so lovely seeing them all mix together.”

“It’s nice for them,” Lorraine continued. “They can go out in the garden parts, there’s a shop, and then the social side in the club. It’s just enough for them – a couple of hours in the afternoon.”

With the latest installment – a musically-themed affair which is just the most recent in a long line of zany angles, inlcuding the seaside and tennis – welcoming the former lead guitarist from Herman’s Hermets, Mike Hamer, to perform a range of 1950s and 60s classics, the club is going from strength to strength.

To get in touch and attend one of the Forget-Me-Not Club events, call Ashmeade on 01282 425142.