Harrogate's Dementia Forward makes incredible 600 calls to help isolated clients

A dynamic Harrogate and Ripon-based charity supporting people living with dementia has vowed to survive by being truly local and truly flexible - and is now taking on more referrals than ever.

Tuesday, 14th April 2020, 5:21 pm
The early days of Dementia Forward - The North Yorkshire charity's chief executive Jill Quinn, right, with Netty Newell and Ceri Thomas in their Ripon office in 2013.

Unlike some national charities who have been pleading for millions of pounds, Dementia Forward says it is taking a more grassroots approach to supporting the wellbeing of others for as long as the lockdown lasts.

Formed from scratch eight years ago on a tiny budget, this dynamic local charity is determined not to let anyone with dementia feel isolated and trapped during the coronavirus emergency.

Jill Quinn, Dementia Forward's chief executive, said: "Of course we are concerned that we have had to cancel fundraising, because as a local charity, we rely heavily on this income.

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"We have had to cancel fundraising events and we are also aware that people will suffer individual financial difficulties in these times and this may affect the generous donations that bolster our income.

"But for now we will just continue to do what we do and hope that once this is over, people will come back and support us as they always have.

"I'm not scared of this. It's hard but we have redesigned what we do and we will keep it going.

"I'm proud of everybody at Dementia Forward. Our ethos runs right through the charity.

"It will take all of next year to recover but we will scrape through."

In normal times, Dementia Forward would operate from its hub in Burton Leonard at George Armitage House, a converted former Methodist chapel first opened in 2017.

Now there is a renewed emphasis on the group's helpline and a return to the days of the telephone with an intensive round of phone calls.

What Dementia Forward is achieving during coronavirus

As the lockdown confines vulnerable people to their own houses, Dementia Forward's support team are busy making daily care calls, working through their list of more than 4,000 people.

In particular, they are making phone calls to young people and those who regularly attend services, so that their routine is continued as much as possible.

In total, its committed volunteers have now conducted an incredible 600 welfare calls since lockdown began.

In recent weeks it has started working closely with, and helping, local GPs with care plans for people with dementia.

In fact, since the beginning of the crisis, Dementia Forward has actually taken on 80 new referrals.

Jill Quinn is not only determined not to let vulnerable people down, she is confident her amazing team will come as close as possible to maintaining the same standard of care as before.

She said: "I know how much people need us. Families are falling apart. All we can do is be that emotional crutch.

“We have started using online tools, such as Zoom, so that we can connect with our clients virtually to chat, play games and stay connected.

"This has been a real hit with our young onset group, who get so much out of each other’s company.”

The chief executive said her confidence is based on the commitment of her team and the fact the charity started at the bottom in a "hand-to-mouth" way and has worked its way up in an organic fashion.

She said: "We built the charity from nothing. We were using second-hand computers from a skip.

"It was real hand-to-mouth stuff at the beginning."

Despite needing financial support like anyone else, Jill Quinn said she had been shocked by recent appeals by national charities.

She said: "While National charities are making appeals to fill daunting gaps in their income of figures like £20 million, because of a lack of fund-raised income, we see things differently.

"In contrast to those big national charities our plea is not for millions of pounds.

"It is for people to make sure people with dementia know where we are if they need us and to remember us when all this is over and come back to support us when things are back to normal."

Dementia Forward: Bringing a smile of hope at this difficult time

Along with providing important advice and support, the Dementia Forward team are trying to bring a smile to everyone’s faces with photos and videos throughout this difficult time.

They are sharing the pictures via email to as many clients as possible and also posting them on social media, with the hashtag #bringmesunshine which is in-line with North Yorkshire County Council’s ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ dementia strategy.

The title was chosen to symbolise that although living with dementia brings many challenges, it does not automatically have to stop people enjoying life, and Dementia Forward is hoping that the same mindset can be applied to the current situation.

How people can support Dementia Forward

If you would like to provide any contributions to the daily ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ posts, please send your pictures via email to [email protected]

If you are affected by dementia and would like some support, please call the Dementia Forward helpline on 03300 578592 or email [email protected]

You can also find the charity on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DementiaForward

Dementia Forward chief executive Jill Quinn: Comments on fundraising

"In contrast to those big national charities our plea is not for millions of pounds it is for people to make sure people with dementia know where we are if they need us and to remember us when all this is over and come back to support us when things are back to normal.

"Dementia Forward will lose income; we have had to cancel fund raising events and we are also aware that people will suffer individual financial difficulties in these times and this may affect the generous donations that bolster our income.

"However, our focus has always been LOCAL and all about the HERE AND NOW.

"We are small enough and flexible enough to re design and be resourceful during this event and we have responded quickly and creatively to keep doing what we do – after all our support is needed even more at the moment.

"We will struggle financially but right now is the time to dig deep and carry on. When the coronavirus has gone we will re group and then we will ask for the usual wonderful commitment from local communities to return so that we can re build.

"Meanwhile our priority is to keep doing what we do – supporting people living with dementia in each pocket of North Yorkshire giving our specialist dementia advice, information and support."

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