We are always taking on new projects at Chrysalis. Here is a selection of some of our more recent ones.
Northumbria University Student Placements
Over recent years we have built up our relationship with Northumbria University. We began with a Business Studies student who reviewed our social media presence and presented a report with recommendations. We currently have students from the Psychology degree course, who come to us for their placements as volunteers. The students are supported while they learn experientially; although it is not done in a formal way, there is peer support alongside a named person from Chrysalis . Students may not choose a future career in dementia but their skills learning is applicable to all sorts of situations involving working with vulnerable adults. Clearly, communication skills are core, with listening, as well as developing awareness of non verbal communication. Students are also encouraged to attend the training we provide for volunteers, such as safeguarding, health and safety etc. We look forward to continuing this mutually beneficial arrangement.
Working with local schools and an aim to dispel the stigma of mental health, our Intergenerational Project (IGP) was initially inspired by the TV programme “Old people’s home for 4 year olds.” Our work has been slightly different from the programme because ours is out in the community which had its challenges to start with. The rewards, however, have been huge for all concerned: we work with schools bringing children into Chrysalis to partner with our members and great bonds and friendships have been made with people working in pairs - the pleasure everyone gained from the project was there for all to see. We teach the children the rudiments of dementia in a school setting, prior to coming to Chrysalis; some will experience dementia through their own grandparents and it gives them some understanding of behaviours. Although raising awareness is not a priority with Chrysalis, we like to take opportunities when they occur. Our most recent project was decorating the outside of the building, with pottery butterflies, window boxes and hanging baskets, involving experts in pottery and gardening. IGP benefits include •Raising dementia awareness through educational sessions (over 120 children from 3 different schools have been involved, spreading the word about the value people with dementia give to society) •Members and children learning, through fun and laughter, something from each other and making important connections between the generations in a relaxed and safe environment. •Great friendships and memories being made between members and children working in pairs alongside a volunteer. Facilitating the project has been a worthwhile experience for Chrysalis. It has had its challenges, (such as writing a safe-guarding policy for children), as it is something completely different and as usual we were determined to deliver as high quality a project as possible; we tried to listen to all relevant parties and take their views into consideration. Quotes Children - "If I ever get dementia now I won't be scared of it. You can't always remember, but you can always have fun!" "I've told my whole family how to be dementia friends - and the dog!" "I think this was the best thing I have ever done in my life so far" “It really fills you up with joy" "You should never underestimate someone with dementia' Members - “It's just the most win:win thing. They have fun, we have fun. We're all learning. Just fabulous!" "Look at mum with her eyes sparkling, her mood has totally changed just being here" Parents - “I think this kind of experience gives a child a far better, rounded and valuable experience than learning about conjunctives!” Teachers - “You could see them getting more confident each session.” “It has been a fantastic experience for the children.”
Young Person's Group
The Young Person’s Group has been meeting regularly since July, 2021, and is designed primarily for under 65s who are starting on their journey (a very marginalised group where there is not much support available). There are a mix of meetings at Chrysalis and trips out, which have previously included a lunchtime meal at Chrysalis, bowling at Wentworth, a walk and lunch at Wheelbirks, an outing to Daniel Farm at Wylam and workshops in the woods. Physical activity is an important part of what we do, but we vary the activities to include those that are not so physically able. One of the major benefits of this group is that we are just a normal group of people enjoying what we are doing; events have to be chosen carefully to be appropriate, and interesting. The group is a small, consistent, supportive group which hopes to strengthen the relationships between group members, including their partners.
Carers' Information Course
Every year we run a carers’ information course. Last year it ran for 6 weeks and with professional speakers including a psychiatrist (Dr Fergus Fairmichael), a solicitor (Dan Williams from Latimer Hinks) and local organisations such as Admiral nurses, Tynedale Hospice, Living Well, Alzheimers Society as well as a retired GP (Dr Bill Cunningham) and an Occupational Therapist (Julie Allan). The idea is that carers leave the course with lots of information and contact details. It was lovely to see carers’ tensions and stress dissipating and them leaving at the end of the course smiling and looking much more confident.