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Your Health

‘Virtual’ Alzheimer Café is a safe place to talk

Rachel Simons checks in with the virtual café

Rachel Simons checks in with the virtual café.

Organisers of the Alzheimer’s Café Glasnevin were determined to resume their regular meet-ups despite the COVID-19 restrictions – and so the virtual café was devised. Earlier in the summer, 25 people joined this warm, welcoming space for people with dementia, their family, friends and social and health care professionals to meet, exchange ideas and learnings online.

Colette, who attends the café, said, “I find the virtual café very different. I have hearing problems so the virtual café was a 10 out of 10 for me. On the other hand, the personal interaction I miss very much, but it was great to see everyone and I enjoyed the speaker.”

Rachel Simons, Interim Area Director of Nursing for Older People, CHO Dublin North City and County (CHO DNCC), explained, “The HSE, Alzheimers Society of Ireland (ASI), Trinity College Dublin (TCD), National University of Ireland Maynooth (MUI) and Dublin City University (DCU), have provided Alzheimer Cafés for many years. We are very grateful for the support of local volunteers, with professionals giving their time and expertise to the community, making themselves available to answer questions from attendees.”

Rachel added, “The Alzheimer Café is a safe and welcoming place where people can ask questions, some of which can be difficult, and get the answer they need. Many of those who attend are at-risk and have been maintaining strict social distancing, and it was incredibly positive to have a virtual Alzheimer Café in Glasnevin, during COVID-19.”

Lauren Swan, volunteer with the Alzheimer Café and PhD Student in Clinical Medicine, TCD, said she found volunteering very rewarding.

“I’ve been doing this since 2018. We set up the virtual Alzheimer café in the absence of having a live event, and we did everything we could to let people know it was happening – through texting and using Facebook and sending it out to HSE colleagues. We were so delighted to have Bex Towley as our special guest, Bex is an exercise specialist with an international profile and she spoke about ‘Making Movement Your Mission’ giving top tips and easy ways to support movement for older people. I was delighted with the interest before and during the cafés, we’ve run two of these so far.”

After the virtual Alzheimer Café, a survey was sent to participants by the ASI, which will provide good information which will help inform this work into the future.

The Café is based on an international model and provides an informal way to meet others living with dementia and to meet health and social care professionals. This is a collaborative project that has been run for many years with the HSE, TCD, UCD and the Alzheimer's Society of Ireland. The Café usually opens monthly in the early evening, while some open during the day, and provides a mix of education and support. An expert speaker is invited each month to talk to the Café about a topic of interest, however the Café is also a space to chat and enjoy a social occasion in a supportive environment.

To find out more about the Alzheimer Café please email: glasnevinvirtualcafe@alzheimer.ie or phone: 089 4846719