BIADS: Help for today, hope for tomorrow

Caring for someone with dementia can be a 24-hour job and one that often takes over any relationship you both may have had before.

But at BIADS – Barnsley Independent Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support – their unique support service helps people diagnosed with dementia and their carers to reconnect with each other through a range of life-enriching activities and much-welcomed respite from daily life.

Since launching almost ten years ago, BIADS has become an invaluable resource in Barnsley, providing a lifeline that families affected by dementia couldn’t live without.

BIADS was started in 2010 by Linda Pattison who previously worked for the Alzheimer’s Society’s Barnsley branch. As Linda had been a carer for her mum who had dementia, she knew first-hand how a little support could go a long way to ease isolation and hard times felt by carers.

From humble beginnings, the charity moved to their current headquarters on Dean Street, just off Dodworth Road, in 2012 where they now offer a weekly calendar of emotional support sessions and sensory-based activities.

When someone is diagnosed with dementia, the focus is primarily on the services they may need in place to continue living as independently as possible.

However, there can be little to no help for their partner or family member who often becomes their carer. As a progressive disease, the person with dementia will change over time which can be challenging and create a mix of emotions for those caring for them who may find it difficult to separate the person from the condition.

At BIADS, they offer numerous support groups and drop-in sessions throughout the month where carers can come to a comfortable and confidential setting, without fear of being judged, to talk about any issues they may be facing.

Here, there are three carer support workers who can provide advice and information about the illness, guide carers to services available to them, or provide them with coping mechanisms to make daily life a little easier.

Some carers need practical support around issues with mobility, incontinence or work and pensions; others come for regular social contact that may have fallen by the wayside since becoming a carer; and there are those who just want to talk to people going through similar situations to feel like they are not alone.

At the same time as the carers’ groups, the people they care for can take part in various activities in a safe and welcoming environment.

For those who enjoy a good old-fashioned sing song, there is the Singers group which was launched last summer and takes place every alternate Monday. There is also the creative Relax and Revive session every Tuesday, run by QDos Creates, which alternates between dance, drama and music or poetry and writing.

Tuesday is activity afternoon with a different interest every week such as jigsaws, card games and dominoes, crafts and colouring, flower arranging, or memory work to evoke thoughts of yesteryear.

Gentle exercise to keep people mobile plays a big part in BIADS’ weekly happenings and includes two gym sessions every week run by qualified physiotherapists from Kendray Hospital. There is also Jabadao – or chair yoga set to music – plus circle dancing for both carers and their loved ones.

During the spring, summer and autumn months, there is also a walking group with easy walks around Locke Park followed by refreshments at the café.

The BIADS team organises various social events throughout the year from the monthly Time for Tea afternoon to the two parties in June and December. They also arrange two UK holidays in early summer and November for members to enjoy some time together away from Barnsley.

As an independent charity, BIADS receives no government funding and therefore relies solely on fundraising efforts, donations and grants to operate. This year, they are fortunate to be the chosen charity for many organisations including Berneslai Homes, the Mayor of Barnsley, and both M&S and Primark’s Barnsley stores.

When starting BIADS, one of the main objectives was to ensure that all money raised or donated would stay in the town to purely support Barnsley people. All funds generated are used to put smiles back on the faces of people who may be facing a difficult and uncertain journey ahead.

As they reach their tenth anniversary, the BIADS team has been looking at ways to become more self-sustainable for the next ten years and more as there are lots of worthy charities all bidding for the same pots of money.

This February, BIADS will be opening the doors to their new dementia day care centre in the town centre, meaning they can now offer dedicated care seven days a week.

Members have been asking for a day care service for years now and when they were offered space inside Liddy’s Solicitors on Regent Street free of charge, they decided to finally take a leap of faith.

The centre will be open 9am till 4pm Monday to Sunday and can offer full or half days for up to 15 people per day. The day care team, supported by volunteers, will provide a range of activities and quiet time along with meals.

Any profits earned from the day care centre will be invested back into the running of BIADS and improving the service for future members.

Along with a small team of paid staff, the majority of the workforce is made up of over 70 volunteers who have collectively devoted more than 6,000 hours of their spare time to BIADS this year and have helped with everything from assisting in the activity sessions to working in the charity shop at Royston.

The centre was recently given a makeover thanks to Employer Supported Volunteers from RBS, XPO Logistics and Barnsley Council whereby staff are given paid time off from their jobs to volunteer.

Before the new day care centre opens in February, BIADS are looking for a new cohort of volunteers in all ages, genders and ethnicities to support the day care team. If you’re kind, patient and can communicate well, you could make a great carer. Experience isn’t necessary as all training is given including dementia awareness.

To find out more about BIADS, how to donate or volunteer, visit their website or call 01226 280 057