Making Space featured on ITV Tonight show!

October 2019 · 3 min read

Warrington day service and Sandra, a Making Space volunteer from Thurcroft, featured on a prime time ITV show about older people and mental health.

Both services appeared on the Tonight programme special – called Growing Old: Britain’s Mental Health Crisis.

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Reg, a member and volunteer of Warrington Day Service featured on the programme, saying that attending the centre helped him get on top of his money worries, learn IT skills and meet new people.

He said: “I was depressed. I felt terrible. I didn’t know what to do. There was nobody to talk to.”

The service is open to adults of all ages who attend the Warrington mental health service, the majority of the volunteers, like Reg, also use the mental health service and have to balance their own mental health needs with their time at the day centre.

Tammi Achaoui, a support worker at Warrington Day Service said: "Reg had a very sad face; it was heartbreaking. But it was easy to get to root cause and deal with his issues and then we saw a big change in Reg – he was smiling, happy, loud, cracking jokes.”

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Filmed at Silverwood Miners Welfare & Resource Centre in Dalton, which holds a monthly dementia meet up, Sandra shares how attending the café helped her cope not only with life as a full time dementia carer.

Speaking about her late husband Charlie, who passed away from a dementia related illness in 2017, she said: “The illness really made him change. He’d wander round, pulling all the drawers out and emptying wardrobes. He would take off out of the house and disappear every single day.

“One day he turned angry and he pinned me down in a chair with a knife at my throat… and the anger in his eyes…”

“While I was there, there were friends. Everyone’s stressed because you can’t get them dressed or get them to the table. The cafes bring out the best in everyone.

“When I attended my first dementia café, I burst into tears when I saw how much everyone was enjoying the music – and how people in the later stages of dementia came alive when they heard familiar songs. I knew I would be going home with a different attitude."

“It took some work, but eventually I persuaded Charlie to come along with me and he loved it. He only missed four over the five years we were attending cafes together. He would whistle and sing along to the music and I would never see any of the anxiety or confusion or aggression that I would often experience at home.”

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When Charlie passed away two years ago, Sandra, who was awarded an MBE in 2006 for charity fundraising, continued attending dementia cafes around Rotherham as a volunteer. She said the cafes gave her a sense of purpose once her caring responsibilities were over.

“It was really upsetting, mentally I became a wreck,” she said.

“By the end, I hadn’t been able to leave the house for two years to go shopping because I couldn’t leave Charlie on his own – and I couldn’t bring him with me.

“After he’d passed, I found I’d lost all my confidence in how to do basic things like cross the road and do a food shop. Speaking to other carers at the dementia cafes helped me to get back on my feet. And now I get so much out of supporting others who are going through the same”

It is estimated that half of over 55s have experienced a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety. In the programme, Tonight reporter Fiona Foster explored how older people may be affected, and what we can do to help cope with, alleviate, or treat mental health conditions.

The programme, titled Growing Old: Britain’s Mental Health Crisis, is available here until Friday 8 November.

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