Mary Watt was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when she was 57, and her family were shocked by the lack of support available following the news.
Her daughter Valerie recalled: “Mum was given the diagnosis and then we were more or less on our own. We were so bewildered and felt we had nowhere to turn.”
This prompted Valerie to launch the free weekly support group, which takes place in her partner Ray Hatton’s pub, the Goat’s Gate in Whitefield, Greater Manchester.
The group, called the Get Together Club, is a place for dementia sufferers and their carers to meet up and enjoy each other’s company, Valerie explained.
She said: “We have entertainment such as music or craft activities like our recent pumpkin carving for Halloween.
“It's just a warm welcoming place to have some tea, coffee and biscuits and enjoy the company.
She added: “We're here as much for the carers as the sufferers. If you need to laugh, cry, or let off steam, we`re here for each other.”
The Goats Gate group meets every Tuesday between 11am and 1pm.
Paul Longmire, marketing manager of Joseph Holt added: “As a family run independent business, we take great pride in ensuring our pubs are at the heart of the communities they serve.
“We`re so proud of what Valerie, Ray and their helpers are doing at the Goat`s Gate. Alzheimer`s is a terrible and distressing illness.
“This group is one way to help ease some of that distress and provide a comforting presence and peace of mind.”
Valerie said her mother has become a “different person” since her diagnosis three years ago.
She added: “Mum was the kind of person who would do anything for anyone. She was the life and soul and would give her last penny to someone if they needed it.
“All that personality has gone. Often, she doesn`t recognise me or know her three grandchildren. Ironically, she worked in the care industry herself and it`s so upsetting what has happened to her when she was once so vital and full of life.”
Dementia in the UK
There are currently around 900,000 people with dementia in the UK. There is currently no cure for the disease.
The family first noticed something was wrong a year before Mary was formally diagnosed when she began to struggle with simple tasks such as putting on a seat belt or not being able to find things, even when they were objects that had always been kept in the same place.
Gradually the situation worsened although Mary found it hard to admit anything was wrong since her own mother had been diagnosed with dementia when she was 52.
"Mum had to be her mother's carer so she took a lot of persuading when we could see that she was also showing symptoms,” said Valerie. “She just didn`t want to accept it.”