Launched only two years ago in Harrogate by twenty-somethings Megan Sweeting and Natalie Dobson, Over the Rainbow Care has since spread its wings to Wetherby and Knaresborough and Ripon and Boston Spa.
As the age of life expectancy has risen in the UK in recent decades, so, too, has dementia. Triggered by diseases such as Alzheimer’s or a series of strokes, symptoms may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.
Friends Megan and Natalie had a simple aim from the start - to create a service that supported people and enabled people to be independent and carry on doing activities they enjoy.
Their vision led to Over the Rainbow Care which has now won the National Dementia Carer Award at the Great British Care Awards at the Birmingham ICC.
Megan said: “I think quite often people feel as they get older they can’t do so many things but that’s not the case. People can still have quality of life.
“There are other people doing good things for people living with dementia but most day care takes place in nursing homes but that’s not appropriate for everyone.
“We wanted to create a community feel as if it was just a group of friends meeting. People who have seen how it works say it looks really normal.”
Both Megan, 26, from Harrogate, who gets married in a few weeks’ time, and Natalie, 30, who is married with one child and lives near Boroughbridge, were both fully-qualified professionals working in the care sector when they decided to take the plunge and go it alone.
It could have been a risky move. At the beginning it was a shoe-string operation supported by a bank loan each of the two business partners had managed to secure.
But they were determined to succeed, to do things differently, to do things better.
Megan said: “We weren’t worried about leaving our jobs, we believed in what we were doing.
“When you work in the care sector it’s quite often all about the budget and we didn’t think we could provide the sort of care people with dementia need or deserve.
“What we do at Over the Rainbow couldn’t be done if it was corporate and we were sitting in an office.”
The service is always delivered in community settings and promotes friendships, social interaction and having fun.
The day clubs offer a full day of activities, lunch and refreshments and any care support required.
There’s music singalongs, arts and crafts, word games, quizzes, movie afternoons and more.
Over the Rainbow Care day clubs also offer the chance for respite for carers themselves as the burden of looking after loved ones with dementia falls increasingly on family and relatives in this era of austerity .
One of the relatives whose loved one visits the day class at Wetherby Methodist Church is Joan Jarratt, 75, an ex-civil servant, hospital clerk and hospital bed manager, Wetherby.
She said: “My husband Robin is 77. We’ve been married 54 years. He used to work in Boots research laboratories and then in iron and steel and chemical training boards. He went into teaching eventually.
“Seven years ago he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It was just a bit of memory loss. I’d taken a break from work after my son got meningitis and things weren’t too bad at first.
“But he quickly got worse as his Alzheimer’s progressed. He forget’s people and places. He couldn’t walk round Wetherby anymore on his own. It wouldn’t be safe.
“Over the Rainbow makes such a tremendous difference. I take him once a week to the Wetherby day class and once a week to the Boston Spa one.
“It gives me a breathing space, it gives me some time off. Caring at home for someone with dementia is 24 hours. You can’t go anywhere or do anything at all for yourself.
“But when I take Robin to Over the Rainbow, I have time to read a book or go for a coffee. And I know he’s happy and safe and looked after. He has lunch and he’s kept busy.
"It also means you get to meet other carers, which is good.
"But I’m not sure how much longer I will be able to look after him at home.”