Alzheimer Scotland’s Western Isles services are determined to keep their support for people with dementia and their families going, even though they had to close the Solas day centre early in the Coronavirus crisis.

The centre closed on 13 March but, says locality leader Marion Macinnes, the team quickly sprang into action to see what could still be done to support people.

Marion said: “We looked at what could be delivered via technology to continue therapeutic relationships and activity. After whistle-stop staff training sessions in technology like Attend Anywhere we were soon able to start offering support on digital platforms, such as for dementia advisor one-to-one and peer group sessions for carers and families.

“We’ve got new services coming online all the time – such as a full programme of activities being rolled out soon on Zoom and we have worked with Western Isles library service to organise the loan of IT equipment support, plus set-up where that is needed.”

Not everything the team are doing relies on technology. Staff are keeping in very close contact with people and families to monitor any changes, issues arising, or new support needs and they’re also working closely with health and social care colleagues, looking out for the same issues.

Practical offers of support came in the shape of goody bags delivered to carers, each containing hand soap, hand sanitiser and a wee treat, while activity packs were also developed for non-internet users.

Marion said: “We are aware not everyone has internet or wants to use this option, so we organised doorstep visits in the sunny weather, regular phone calls, texts and email support. Low level home support is approved for people in critical need.

Building up new ways of working with the growing number of new community support networks, Alzheimer Scotland Western Isles have been offering dementia awareness sessions on digital platforms.

Marion said: “We are aware that many communities are offering vital local practical support, so we have been actively signposting these amazing networks. Some people have felt overloaded with information and have needed support to navigate this – although it’s a great problem to have, as the offers of support have been tremendous.

“Our ongoing work as a national organisation is to continue to work with Scottish Government highlighting themes which may emerge around the human rights and support needs of people with dementia and their carers, as well as more practical issues.”

In the midst of all the changes everyone is having to contend with, Alzheimer Scotland in the Western Isles is working hard to continue with local fundraising, a huge concern as they, like so many other charities and volunteer groups, will struggle to maintain support for individuals without vital funds.

Luckily members of the community have stepped up there, too. As Marion said: “Currently we have a couple of personal challenges under way and we’d love if people could support us if they can. The support of the local community has always been so amazing to help us make sure no one faces dementia alone.”

The picture shows one of the goody bags made up for carers.