A diagnosis of dementia can leave you concerned and in need of a range of support. In addition, you may have learned that staying as active and engaged as possible can help you manage the disease, and even slow down memory loss. As such, you are probably keen to track down dementia support groups in the UK for yourself or a loved one.
Unfortunately, finding dementia support groups wherever you live in the UK is actually quite a complex process, which is far from what you need. As such, we’ve tried to bring together the relevant information and services here, so that you can find the dementia support groups that will help you best.
Here we most focus on dementia support groups for individuals living with dementia. These groups range in type from social meet up groups through to classes, singing, art and trips.
In addition, support is available for loved ones and carers and we touch on this later in the article.
It can be helpful to be signposted to different dementia support groups in your area. Speak to your healthcare provider as they often have recommendations.
In reality, the number and coverage of dementia support groups in the UK is far from adequate, especially in the wake of Covid. Group support is much more easily available through specialist dementia care homes, where daily group-based activities and sessions are run to a more diverse and regular timetable.
The Alzheimer’s Society is the UK’s largest dementia charity and provides a search function for finding support near you. You can enter your postcode and choose ‘activities and social groups’. This will bring up the available activities and dementia support groups in your area.
For example, at the time of writing, in the Minehead area there were groups such as:
The Alzheimer’s Society offer an excellent new service called Dementia Connect. Here you can get guidance on the best support for you, depending on your particular situation and needs. You can call the Dementia Connect Support Line on 0333 150 3456. They will be able to signpost you to things like community support, social groups and day centres. Bear in mind that this is a new service and isn’t fully available in every area yet.
When looking for dementia support groups, Age UK is likely to be another place that you turn to. They have a dedicated search function for dementia support groups in your area, searchable by postcode. This will then send you to your local Age UK where you can see which groups are available and when.
Age UK runs day centres around the country and support groups are often run through these, as well as offering respite to carers. Activities in these groups are designed to be stimulating and engaging, and often there’s the option of provided transport too.
There are dedicated groups with a particular focus. For example, groups may be dance for dementia, singing for the brain, seated exercise, art for dementia or memory cafés. They also often organise trips and outings.
However, while it sounds ideal in theory, you will be governed by your postcode and many support groups are still hindered by Covid, meaning they haven’t reopened. For example, at the time of writing, the only open dementia support group for those under Age UK Devon, within reach of our South Molton homes, is a wonderful sounding 12 week programme called ‘Get Active with Photography’ based in Barnstaple. This combines 6 virtual sessions with 6 guided walks. However, it is the only Age UK listed support group available in the area.
It’s also worth noting that Age UK can be helpful for one-to-one support, in addition to dementia support groups. Their trained befrienders can offer companionship and support over the phone or face-to-face.
Your local authority is likely to run some dementia support groups, especially if they have local day centres for people living with dementia. You’ll need to search for your local authority online or you may find that your health care providers are able to make recommendations and referrals to these groups.
Age Space has a number of local hubs which are good for signposting available local groups and services. They don’t cover the whole country and don’t have any hubs in the south west. Search to see if they cover your area.
The UK Dementia Directory specifically aims to bring together the diverse range of information that differs according to postcode and this extends to dementia support groups. On their listing for dementia support groups, you can also ‘add a comment’ asking about your particular area and they seem very helpful at offering specific advice that’s relevant to you and your location.
Arts 4 Dementia is a charity that runs all sorts of activities for those living with dementia across the country. Their aim is to provide high-quality inter-generational arts activities for those living with dementia in their community and their loved ones. Again, what’s available will depend on your local area.
Dementia support groups needn’t be in-person! Online forums are an excellent way of accessing support and sharing your experience with other people who are living with dementia. You can read about the experiences of others, or join in and chat too. You can make connections on your own terms.
Talking Point is the forum of the Alzheimer’s Society and is a great place to spend time, get information, and give and receive support.
Both Age UK and the Alzheimer’s Society are very good at supporting families and carers of those living with dementia. Much of this support is through information provision. They offer excellent advice about finding local services, navigating systems and even applying for benefits.
You can call the Age UK advice line on 0800 678 7602 to find out what support is available in your area. Demtalk offers advice and information specifically for families and loved ones. Online forums that are helpful to loved ones include Talking Point and the Carers UK forum.
The nature of dementia support groups mean that they operate on a dip-in-dip-out basis and what’s available is heavily location specific. Even if you live in an area with excellent provision, dementia support groups are limited.
The easiest way to get regular and varied dementia support is through accessing the right care. Choosing a dedicated dementia care home will ensure that dementia support is constant and consistent. Activities and groups will run regularly and to a varied programme, designed to enable the individual with dementia to have the best possible quality of life through stimulation and engagement.