Lifeline volunteers help out at the Dementia Cafe


VOLUNTEERS serve life-saving friendship and support as well as coffee and cake at a new dementia cafe.

Old Gourock & Ashton Church started the project to give people and their carers a safe place to meet and chat.

Church elder Gillian McCallion set up the cafe with Phyllis Gatens and John Lowe, and the trio all have first-hand experience caring for a loved one with dementia.

Gillian, 59, says she felt there was a pressing need for the new service.

She told the Telegraph: “My mother, Iris Dobie, is 87 and has had Alzheimer’s for seven years.

“I just felt there was nothing in the area for me and my mum.

“My dad passed away 10 years ago and she had early onset Alzheimer’s, which took its toll.”

Iris, a life member of the church, gets a lot out of the group.

She said: “I think it’s a good idea.

“I made a lot of new friends.”

Another man who came to the café told Tele about the “good atmosphere”, adding: “People are very friendly and the cakes are good.”

Phyllis’ late husband also suffered from dementia praecox.

Gillian said: “I think it’s really important for us to have a place like this, just to have other carers to talk to and share experiences.

“Everyone’s journey with dementia is different.

“My mum lives in her own house but she has the support of the family which allows this to happen.

“I only recently registered as a carer because you don’t see yourself as one when you’re caring for a relative.

“So this cafe is also about providing information.

“It’s as much for caregivers as it is for people with dementia.

“We have volunteers, people who play the piano and sing along.”

Gillian says it’s hard to describe the condition and how it affects people.

She said: “If you’ve never had a first-hand experience before, you don’t know what to expect.

“Mom can have a bad day but be fine the next day.

“You go through stages, the stage of forgetting, the stage of anger, upset and then calm.

“It’s a range of emotions.”

A team of 26 volunteers are mobilizing to support the new café, which takes place every Friday in the church’s Islay Hall from 2-3.30pm.

There is also a separate “quiet room” for caregivers to chat.

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