Meet our finalists – Dementia Care Award

January 20, 2021

Find out more about those shortlisted for the Dementia Care Award. Here, they talk about what motivates them and how they’ve had to adapt through the pandemic.

Music for Dementia

Working with more than 200 charities and organisations, Music for Dementia raises awareness and understanding of the role of music in dementia care.

What made you want to enter the awards?

The Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards are well known within the care sector for recognising and celebrating work that aims to make a positive difference to people’s lives. We feel we are helping to do that with our radio station,

We hoped that entering would bring greater awareness of the radio station to people in the voluntary care and support sector and help them to make music a part of the care and support they provide.

How did you react when you found out you were a finalist?

With real delight and surprise! There has been so much innovation, dedication, and excellent work happening this year to not only keep people safe, but to support them to live as well as they possibly can through COVID.

We knew that standards would extremely be high. We are really honoured to have made it as a finalist amongst so many other amazing individuals and organisations who have been making real and genuine difference for people.

What does it mean to you to be a finalist in the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards?

It’s such wonderful acknowledgement and recognition of our work and it means a huge amount to be a finalist. We are very honoured to be recognised in this way.

To be given the opportunity to expand our reach and be featured in CMM is a fantastic way for us to be able to share our messages and resources.

For us, we want to be able to share the radio station and our other resources as far and as wide as we possibly can so as many people as possible can benefit from them. It also means that we have the opportunity to connect with the wider sector and although our campaign is focused on people living with dementia, we know that music is good for us all!

How have you had to adapt your services for COVID-19?

As in-person services had to stop when COVID took hold, our Musical Map, which previously listed in-person musical services, needed to be adapted to reflect the many innovative and much needed virtual services that were coming online. We felt this was incredibly important to do, as there was so much available making it overwhelming and difficult at times for people living with dementia and their carers to navigate.

Alongside this, we were faced with the reality that musicians and music therapists were unable to go into care settings to provide much needed services. We changed our mission from being purely a campaign to also delivering a service in the form of

There was an urgent and pressing need to get this service up and running and we were able to do this from concept to launch in two months. In record speed, we had to learn about radio production, programming and content development. Importantly to us, we wanted to ensure that people living with dementia and their carers were part of the process and still continue to be.

Alzheimer’s Support

Alzheimer’s Support is an independent charity encouraging people to live well with dementia in Wiltshire. It offers award-winning day care, help at home and activity groups.

What made you want to enter the awards?

We are so proud of how we support people living with dementia in their own homes in Wiltshire. We are a truly local, community-based organisation, with a group within five miles of every town and village. Our aim is to support everyone affected by dementia to lead lives that are active, independent and meaningful for as long as possible and many families tell us what a difference our support workers, day clubs and groups are making to their everyday lives. When we heard there was a dementia care category, we knew we had to enter.

It has been such a difficult year for everyone affected by dementia, and for everyone working in dementia care. The people we support are among those most severely affected by the isolation of lockdown.

In those early months, we witnessed some heart-breaking declines in people denied the social interaction that is intrinsic to their wellbeing, and extreme fatigue on the part of family carers as their workload and stress levels rose. As an organisation, we rose to the challenge and we could see that the connections we were able to build, different for different people, were helping the families in the most difficult of circumstances.

Entering the Awards was a chance to let a wider audience know that people with dementia and their families have great needs, but can be resilient, can adapt, and can make the best of things with the right support, that small things that can make a huge difference. It was also to send a signal to our amazing staff team that their incredible efforts, love and compassion are recognised and truly valued.

How did you react when you found out you were a finalist? 

We were delighted when we found out we were finalists. It was a moment of light in a difficult year. Being shortlisted was a wonderful boost for our staff and volunteer team.

It is often emotionally challenging supporting people affected by dementia and, this year more than ever, our teams have had to give so much of themselves and work in new and different ways without their own usual support structures.

To have their efforts recognised publicly – and nationally – has been amazing for us all. We have shared the news with the families we support, in our social media and in our local press and have been touched by the responses.

What does it mean to you to be a finalist in the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards?

The Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards are highly respected in the charity sector.

To be a finalist is a real honour in a sector where there is such an amazing amount of good practice, innovation and dedication.

The award ceremony itself is a wonderful opportunity to get to know others involved in ground-breaking work in different charity areas, to share ideas and to learn so much from other innovative organisations and people.

We are also honoured to be in such good company with the other finalists.

How have you had to adapt your services for COVID-19?

Our work is all about social interaction, togetherness and keeping people connected with each other and with their own sense of identity and past life. With lockdown, we closed our day clubs and community group and dramatically scaled back one-to-one visits. Within days of services closing, we had developed innovative ways to reach people and to ensure contact and essential support continued. The twin pillars of our new approach were online music and exercise sessions, and phone calls. We made 800 calls a week, from staff members who knew the family well, for in-depth conversation, advice, to let off steam or just a chat – whatever was needed.

Then there was the practical support. We shopped, we collected medication, we organised personalised musical phone calls. We arranged video calls for day club members who missed each other’s banter, we sent out packets of seeds to grow and materials for art projects to do at home. We moved our singing and exercise groups online, and crucially, we supported people who had never used Zoom (or in some cases even a laptop) to access these sessions. It was amazing to watch people greet their friends online.

In May, when PPE was available, we resumed one-to-one home visits, and in August we were among the first in the country to reopen day care, with community groups following from September. Reopening with tight new protocols while keeping the informal atmosphere was one more challenge, but once again the teams delivered and it was so, so worth it.

Retain Wellbeing CIC – GIFT Café

Retain Wellbeing CIC aims to improve the lives of people living in the community. Its GIFT Cafés provide a safe and welcoming environment, with Dementia Friends as staff.

What made you want to enter the awards?

I saw the advert for the awards whilst trying to find ways of working through COVID. When I saw it, I thought the team at Retain should be put forward as they have worked so hard to help families with dementia.

COVID meant a lot of services had stopped and a lot had had to change, but our team have risen to the challenges and have found creative ways to offer help and support whilst keeping people safe.

The team has such passion for what we do and our core team has put in four years of commitment to our objectives. Putting it succinctly, the team is awesome and they have made a significant impact.

How did you react when you found out you were a finalist?

Wow, we were absolutely overjoyed! It was the good news we needed at the time. 2020 has posed so many challenges.

We have never been in such a situation before and feeling that someone else thought we had achieved something means a lot to us.

Our team were buzzing at a time when there was not a lot to buzz about. We were truly so pleased.

What does it mean to you to be a finalist in the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards?

It validates what we do and will continue to do, it also promotes what we have been trying to achieve.

Giving dementia care a spotlight is so important and having news about our work helps spread the word and that means that perhaps another family or organisation will get involved.

How have you had to adapt your services for COVID-19?

We have had to adapt a great deal in the last year, but we feel we are coming out the other side. We have recommenced our GIFT Club, offering care home residents a COVID-secure outing to the café so they have been able to safely do something normal and enjoyable – this is proving to be a great success.

Opening just for the care homes has given the residents improved quality of life and their relatives have been extremely supportive and appreciative of this initiative.

Providing a mobile food service to rural villages during lockdown also maintained our presence with the communities we serve. Additionally, we have just signed a lease on our first meeting centre building. This was one of our goals and we are almost there.

COVID actually got us to sit down and refocus our efforts. We know that so many families living with the impacts of dementia have really struggled through the lockdowns and we know we can help them recuperate in the upcoming months.

This year we will be revealing our winners at a Virtual Ceremony on Friday 12th February. We’d love for you to join us. Sign up to attend the event here.

You can also keep up to date with all the latest on this year’s finalists on social media #3rdSectorCareAwards @3rdSectorCare