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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

A Hope Group offers support for people living with dementia – and their carers

Updated: Mar 2, 2022

Bringing us news of Benfleet Methodist Church's Hope Group, Leigh-on-Sea Anna Chaplain, Eileen Simmons writes:

Eileen Simmons (centre) Anna Chaplain for Leigh-on-Sea.

‘I love being an Anna Chaplain and my work has changed since I was commissioned to include supporting the wonderful Hope Group at a nearby church.

‘This group meets each Monday from 10.00 am to 2.00 pm including lunch. Benfleet Methodist has an extensive community involvement programme and the Hope Group is one such activity, which is very inclusive, friendly and so welcoming.

‘When the church extended its premises, the welcome area was added at the front of the sanctuary and is situated on the main street fully visible to all walking or driving by. There are full length glass windows, a kitchen, store cupboards and a fully accessible toilet facility. Up to 60+ people can be seated and coffee mornings take place every day. The Hope Group is fully integrated with the Monday coffee morning and lunch is available to all.

‘The Hope Group includes individuals living with dementia and their family carers. We have other carers and those cared for, plus a recently bereaved carer, making twelve carers in all. It is an opportunity to meet, chat, share refreshments and enjoy a varied programme of activities.

‘The family carers give support to each other. During the morning we usually enjoy a “Keep Fit” session. All activities offered are optional as we are all “mature” individuals. The programme is regularly extended and we have enjoyed painting sessions, table tennis, flower arranging, a birds of prey demonstration, a visit from the play group which meets in a different part of the church premises and a whole host of other activities. There is a real fluidity as people pop in. One church member calls in with her dog, which folk love.

‘The welcome area is usually set up with six or eight tables and the Hope Group may use one or two of them with other groups involved in card making, hug in a shrug making, crocheting, etc. We are all invited to join in and there is an easy flow and intermingling of people. I mainly support the Hope Group.

‘Marie Howard is the leader of the Monday Hope Group and it is a delight for me to work with her and to share experiences and ideas. I very much enjoy listening to individual’s stories and their current involvement, e.g. singing in St. Luke’s Hospice choir.

‘After lunch we always have a music session, again all are welcome. Bob, our musician has a wide range of instruments including a number of different guitars, banjos etc. and he sings old favourites to which we sing along (some even dance!). There is a lot of research evidence on the therapeutic effect music has on those living with dementia and certainly there is much enjoyment and participation shown.

‘We regularly welcome new individuals and I, personally, find the embedding of the Hope Group within the larger coffee morning group an effective model.’




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