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New Dementia centre focusing on Irish culture opens in Birmingham

dementia centre digbeth-n
A new Dementia Centre has opened for the Irish in Birmingham where a range activities are hosted including cooking classes

A NEW Dementia centre that aims to provide a vital service for Birmingham’s Irish community has been launched in the heart of Digbeth.

The Birmingham Irish Association (BIA) has unveiled the free service at the city’s St Anne’s Parish Centre, which not only connects those suffering from Dementia but also gives their carers some much-needed respite.

First, second and third-generation Irish people in Birmingham are welcome to attend the centre, where they can participate in social activities including cooking, dancing, singing and board games.

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Funded by some of the £197,000 awarded to the BIA through the Irish Government’s Emigrant Support Fund in November, the centre is currently open weekly on Thursdays and Fridays, with a view to running additionally on Mondays and Tuesdays in the coming months.

Volunteer Coordinator at the centre, Yvonne Price, told The Irish Post that the focus on Irish culture is the most important aspect of the service.

“We work with Irish people all the time, and there’s nothing out there for Irish people with Dementia,” she said.

“This centre is culturally sensitive. If they’ve originally come here from Ireland, then the Dementia may have meant that they’ve gone back in time in their minds, so it’s important the place is soaked in Irishness, with music and food.

“We’ve even contacted all the county tourist boards in Ireland to find out more information, so that when we’re all reminiscing together we can look specifically at where the individuals are from.”

The Dementia Centre is focused on giving individual clients sufficient attention; there is one volunteer to every three people at the centre.

It also opens its doors to family and friends who want to attend and support their loved ones, and for those who travel to the centre alone, the BIA, which celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2017, provides transport.

Following successful events, including pancake making on Shrove Tuesday and soda bread cooking classes, Ms Price said that the centre is preparing to hold a St Patrick’s Day event next month.

“Many of them know each other from the past, from when they visited the dance halls in their younger days, which is amazing,” she added. “This is why this centre is so important, it reconnects people.”

The service is currently accepting referrals from anyone with Irish heritage throughout Birmingham.

Chief Executive of the BIA, Maurice Malone said: “It will be the first of its kind in Birmingham specifically for the Irish community and we are looking to our friends and patrons initially to help us.

“Research has shown that any successful centre is built on continuity, friendliness, adaptability and above all staff that are caring, patient and have an empathy for those suffering with mental illness. We are extremely grateful to the Irish Government Emigrant Support Programme funding which has enabled us to launch this vital service.”

If you are interested in volunteering or can help out in any way please contact Yvonne Price or Shelley Elliott on 0121 604 6111

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Nemesha Balasundaram
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Nemesha Balasundaram is a Reporter with The Irish Post. Follow her on Twitter @nemeshaB

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