Sue Ryder Synergy Cafes for people with dementia

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Sue Ryder Synergy Cafes support people with dementia and their carers across Suffolk and Peterborough.  They provide an opportunity for people with dementia, their families and carers to spend time in a relaxed and supportive environment; to enjoy socialising with others living with dementia; to relax, chat or take part in enjoyable activities; and to receive information and practical support

Synergy Cafés are run by trained facilitators and volunteers, who help to remove the fear associated with dementia by combining education with information, whilst also offering support to individuals or carers who are struggling.  Anyone living within the community who may be worrying about themselves or a loved one having undiagnosed dementia is also welcome to come along for advice and guidance in a secure, safe and informal environment.

Every fortnight Synergy Cafes also host Living well sessions: a learning programme aimed to promote independence, health and enjoyment which is open to older people with all health conditions, their family and friends. 

The Synergy Cafes have a strong ethos of partnership working. When the first cafe was established, one aim was to work in a more integrated way with any other organisations supporting people with dementia and invite them into the café. Sue Ryder work closely with the Alzheimer's Society, Age UK and Suffolk Family Carers to help deliver the cafe information programme.  Last year we worked with over 60 different organisations, and this was recognised in a Partnership Award we received from The Suffolk Foundation. This close working ensures that we are working efficiently and together for the good of people affected by dementia and not duplicating support which is a danger and clearly not affordable.

Thanks to Synergy, me and Jim were introduced to Positive Steps and we both now also attend a weekly fitness club. Both of us get something out of it. It helps Jim with his balance and posture and he hasn’t fallen since we started and he can walk much further now, It also loosens me up with all the stress I had been getting a lot of neck pain, this has eased. We both sleep much better now. Jim loves the interaction he gets from Synergy. He's more alert and able to converse much better. It’s done his health a world of good.

In March 2015 Sue Ryder published an evaluation report looking at the impact that Synergy Cafés have on both carers and those with dementia.  This included survey questions directly linked to the National Dementia Strategy Outcomes to understand whether members felt they had improved knowledge of how to self-manage care, an increased confidence and ability to cope better with the condition, an improved sense of wellbeing and a reduction in feelings of isolation. The survey also measured whether involvement in meaningful activities increased, whether members felt able to make more informed decisions, and whether they now feel more in control. 

Of those surveyed:

  • 98% of people said they now feel either a lot less or less isolated
  • 98% of people said the service has helped them a lot or a little to make friendships
  • 90% of people now feel better able to cope with their condition on a daily basis
  • 100% of the carers that responded now feel more supported in their caring role

Comments from people and carers who responded included:

“The café gives us the opportunity to see that we are not alone and there are others that sadly have it worse”

“This café is a lifeline to us, the social highlight of the week”

“We learn as much from each other as from people coming in”

“We are a family here”.

Volunteers working in the cafes have also gained a huge amount from their involvement.  One volunteer reported as a result of volunteering in a particular cafe her knowledge and confidence has increased vastly and she is now looking to set up a coffee morning for people with dementia to provide an additional activity for people with dementia on another day of the week.

Population groups: 
Carers
People with long term conditions
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