THE number of groups catering for Alzheimers in Carmarthenshire is on the rise. Ty-Golau  (House of Light) was initiated 10 years ago when the Pastor of a local church suggested that the church invite a care home in once a week for coffee. Janet Lewis (a member of the congregation and a retired Occupational Therapist) thought that more could be offered for people attending with memory problems, Alzheimer’s/ dementia type illnesses.

She began by preparing different topics for discussion, like School Days, The War Years, Games we played as Children, Saints Days and much more. Each session included reality orientation, reminiscence, themed quizzes and sing-a-longs, and was accompanied by power point presentations to reinforce the spoken word. Volunteers dressed in costumes relating to the era or topic of the day.

Initially, local care homes were contacted and Ty-Golau began in a small way in the church hall in Llanelli. Jan then set up in Kidwelly (Morfa vestry) and had one service user initially (and for a long time, which was hard going!) However, numbers soon grew as word of the group spread and outgrew the building, prompting the group to move to larger premises.

Jan and her group of very dedicated volunteers currently run 3 groups per week (1 in Kidwelly and 2 in Llanelli), with different service users attending each session. People come from care homes as well as those living independently within the community or with family/ carers and Ty-Golau welcomes, on average, 59 service users and 26 carers per week. Ty-Golau receive new referrals on a regular basis and have 18 very dedicated volunteers, without whom Ty-Golau could not continue.

Ty-Golau is not a social group (although socialisation naturally takes place within the group). Each session is specifically planned to provide cognitive stimulation and the aim is to provide specialist care which is presented in a non-threatening, fun way.

Some comments received from service users and carers include –
“I don’t get up early, there’s nothing to get up for, but on Ty-Golau day, I’m first up and
raring to go”;
“Thank you for giving me back my memories”;
“I enjoy coming as much as my mother. I really must stop shouting out the answers though. I get so excited”;
“My wife loves coming and I enjoy it too. It’s the only place I can take her.”

A spokesperson said: “Hearing comments such as these and knowing that they are touching people’s lives, (even for a few hours a week) makes all the effort involved worthwhile. To see smiling faces and hear the laughter within the sessions gives the team great satisfaction and is the highlight of the volunteers week.”

Jan and Ty-Golau have received many awards for the work being carried out at Ty-Golau (too many to mention here), the highlights being an invitation to Buckingham Palace Garden Party and receiving Rotary ‘Community Champion’ award at the National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff last year. In May, Jan received the Rotary ‘National Community Champion’ award in Nottingham, despite not being a Rotarian.

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