A centre offering advice and support about dementia was opened in Lerwick on Friday.
Alzheimer Scotland’s Dementia Resource Centre at the foot of Burgh Road will serve as a drop-in for anyone seeking information about dementia, as well as a base for local dementia adviser, Ann Williamson and community activities organiser, Laura Whittall.
The official ribbon-cutting was done by chief executive of Alzheimer Scotland Henry Simmons, who said the charity had invested £300,000 in services in Shetland, and the new centre would continue the work of bringing the subject “out of the shadows and into the high street”. It was another step to getting rid of the stigma of dementia, and making sure people affected (more than 400 in Shetland) could live as “equal citizens”.
Mr Simmons said: “I am absolutely delighted to officially open our latest Dementia Resource Centre. Shetland has shown itself to be an engaged and understanding community for people living with dementia; our new centre will be a community hub for much of this activity and support the great work happening locally.”
MSP Tavish Scott said the opening of the centre was a “fantastic occasion”, and he expressed his gratitude to the “big commitment” made both nationally and locally to making sure Shetland had the resources and support needed.
He said: “Dementia affects many people and families across Shetland. It is a great challenge to both those people affected and loved ones. The new resource centre is a welcome and necessary service and I thank all those who have made this possible. I am sure that many islanders will use the advice and help they can now access in Burgh Road.”
Ms Williamson illustrated this support by saying the window cleaner had pledged to work free of charge at the new centre, which has many dementia-friendly features and is designed to offer practical examples of ideas to maintain independent living.
Comprising a reception and meeting area, a homely kitchen and office space, with furniture supplied locally, it has non-slip, non-reflective oak floors, skirting boards in contrasting colours and a glass-fronted fridge in the kitchen area for clear visibility.
The opening event was attended by chairwoman of Alzheimer Scotland’s Shetland branch Heather Fisher, who signed the opening certificate with Mr Simmons, as well as charity trustees, dementia specialists and local people with dementia and their families.
Carer Marina Gray gave a speech with the message that “life doesn’t stop with dementia”, and carer Douglas Smith said the new centre would be a “marvellous” resource, which was sure to be put to good use. A co-ordination centre for services had been needed, he added.
NHS Shetland dementia nurse manager Alan Murdoch said the new centre would make a “great difference”. He said: “People have got a focal point now. [Previously] it has been difficult to get hold of staff but now the space gives us the opportunity to make ourselves availabe to people.” His staff would aim to be there once or twice a month, he said.
The opening event was celebrated with a musical interlude,in the form of a group rendition of Cockles and Mussels by music therapist Alice Mullay, whose sessions with people with dementia have a “real benefit”. She said: “In music we’re alive.”
And Laureen Johnson read two poems, one in English and the other in Shetland dialect, and said: “Everyone relates to poetry”.
The previous owner of the 66 Burgh Road building, former financial adviser Hilda Irvine, was also present. She had offered the building for sale to Alzheimer Scotland, and said she was delighted it was being used for health and well-being.
For more information contact Ann Williamson on (01595) 720343 or 07775914753.