Dementia patients 'dropped' as vital socialisation service axed

Joy Reeve, 79, and her daughter Annette at Marion Day Centre in 2019

Joy Reeve, 79, and her daughter Annette at Marion Day Centre in 2019 - Credit: Archant

The family of people living with dementia have slammed the decision to cut a "vital" socialisation service in lieu of home visits. 

The Marion Day Centre in the city centre has announced it is winding down its respite day care from February 24. 

But the daughter of a Thorpe St Andrew woman whose life was improved by the service is campaigning to reverse the change. 

Annette Gibbons, 56, said the service is essential for her mum Joy Reeve who is 79.

Annette said: "Mum goes to the day centre and she's just so stimulated. 

"She comes home and is more articulate in her words, all because she's socialising.

"This is what people with dementia really need."

Joy Reeve (left), Annette Reeve (centre) and Operations Manager Jo Bates (left) with a Christmas pre

Joy Reeve with daughter Annette Gibbons and operations manager Jo Bates at Marion's Christmas party in 2019 - Credit: Lauren De Boise

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Age UK, which runs the services in Marion Road, said that the withdrawal of this service does not mean that dementia support will cease entirely.

It added the decision had been made as a result of changing demands.

Annette added: "Mum pays £21 a session, but she's now being offered a replacement service of a free visit in the home, with us having to be there. They won't do personal care, so that person isn't going to get that free time either.

"I've not spoken to one person who has a family member with dementia that says that this is a good idea.

Regulars at the Marion Road Day Centre, enjoying word and quiz games. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Regulars at the Marion Road Day Centre, enjoying word and quiz games. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Archant

"My mum has carers, neighbours and family come in to her. Another person coming in isn't doing as much good as her going to Marion. I can't see the logic of it.

"I can't see the sense in this. I've emailed Chloe Smith and I've started an action Facebook group to quantify this."

Joy Reeve receives a Christmas present from Intu Chapelfield's Giving Box in 2019

Joy Reeve receives a Christmas present from Intu Chapelfield's Giving Box in 2019 - Credit: Lauren De Boise

A representative of Chloe Smith confirmed that the Norwich North MP is engaging with Ms Gibbons and "is looking into the situation".

Annette said that her family were recommended Marion's services by close friend of Joy's Janette Forbes - the wife of footballer Duncan who lost his battle with Alzheimer's in 2019 - after the care he received there.

She added: "Mum used to volunteer at Age UK in London Street. 

"So it's come full circle, and a lot of them knew her when she started coming to Marion. She didn't remember them, by that point.

"Having this amazing service is reassuring as a family, but hearing that some people feel like they're stuck now its under threat is heart-breaking.

"Marion is dropping us. I never thought six years ago that I'd be shouting my bit about a dementia service, but you don't know it's going to affect you."

Dan Skipper, chief executive of Age UK Norwich, said "What we've seen over a number of years is a decline in people using the service.

"We've evolved a wide range of community-based offers from physical and social health, advice and guidance, practical support.

Dan Skipper, chief executive at Age UK Norwich. Photo: Age UK Norwich

Dan Skipper, chief executive at Age UK Norwich - Credit: Age UK Norwich

"Although we're withdrawing the respite care element at the centre, we still have community services.

"We are trying to support them by providing similar activities in their home. This reflects an overall trend of people wanting to be supported in the home.

"The Marion Centre will continue to be there and activities will carry on and will be used for our outreach."

Norfolk County Council’s assistant director for community commissioning, Chris Scott, said: “Norfolk County Council was informed by Age UK of their intention to change their current service model.

"It is important to note that there has been no change to the funding provided by Norfolk County Council for day services and we will be meeting with Age UK to discuss this change and the impact on people who use this day service.

“Following this meeting, we will be contacting people who attend the day service to discuss what it means to them and what other alternative options might be available, including whether they can continue to have their needs met by the new Age UK service from Marion Road.

"In the meantime, our social work team will be contacting people to provide the reassurance that they will be fully supported through any changes."