What makes a good Dementia café?

Author: Dianne Fernee

Published on: 25 June 2017

When Robert asked me to write this article I thought that it would be a very easy job because I am so passionate about the café at Wymondham. But the more I thought about it the harder it has become.

So I have decided that I’d start with the more mundane but very important factors.

I guess the first step is to find some like minded people who want to run a café, people who understand that this is a commitment for life. I appreciate this sounds very daunting and somewhat dramatic but you have to understand that once you start something like this both carers and those living with dementia become very depended and this is why I say it is a life time commitment. Along with the commitment a volunteer needs a sense of humour, empathy and reliability. Everything else grows with time. You also find that every volunteer has a huge array of skills that can be used to allow you to offer all sorts of activities. Every café therefore is very different.

Once you have the volunteers the search begins for a suitable venue and that’s not easy. There is much to consider: it must have good access and good parking; once inside you need a bright and inviting room with flooring that is dementia friendly; a good kitchen because no dementia café runs well without coffee and cake; and finally you need disabled toilets with the appropriate signage.

You’ve found your volunteers and the venue and now you need to instigate DBS checks on all volunteers, training as dementia friends, first aid and safe guarding and finally draw up a constitution that will allow you when you are ready to seek charitable status.

Finally you will need to fund your café. There are grants available and many of the supermarkets will supply tea, coffee etc. and of course you will need to fund raise. Telling you all about this would take me more words than I am allowed. So what I will say is that we at Wymondham Dementia Group are always very happy to help new groups get started. As are both Age UK Norwich and Norfolk.

Before you can open your doors you will need to advertise, local surgeries and churches are a good start. Involve the community right from the start.

And once you have done all this you can open your doors but remember to start small and things will grow. We started opening once a month with four couples we now have approx 84 couples and open twice a week but it’s taken us eight years to get there. And finally listen to the carers and those living with dementia.

I hope what I have written will encourage and not put you off opening a much needed dementia café.

But I think the magic ingredient that makes our café so special is the unconditional love that I find is so freely given by all the volunteers on such a regular and committed basis.

The author...

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Dianne Fernee

Wymondham Dementia Support Group

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