A CORONAVIRUS fund grant has helped a day centre to re-open and provide vital care and support for people with dementia and their families.

Alzheimer’s Support received £3,800 from the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund to buy a new air conditioning system to allow its desperately-needed Trowbridge centre to open.

The 30-year-old group had to close the centre, plus its others in Warminster and Devizes, in March and keep in touch with its 900 members over the phone and online.

But, said chief executive Barbs Harris, the isolation had a huge impact on sufferers and their families.

“We had cases where people have just stopped and gone to bed, their personal hygiene went out of the window and they didn’t communicate anymore,” she said.

As the lockdown eased, the group visited the Peggy Dog Centre in Bath to share its risk assessment and plans for re-opening but when it carried out the risk assessment at the centre in Mill Street, Trowbridge, it found a major problem.

Mrs Harris added: “We found that the air conditioning system was not good enough. It recycles the air instead of refreshing it. We just don’t have the money for that kind of outlay, so the grant was a real help. Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to open."

Now the work is complete, the centre is reopen and families who care for people with dementia are glad to have it back.

“It is hard looking after people with dementia at the best of times but if you have absolutely no break and no respite it is really tough,” Mrs Harris said.

“Ron has Alzheimer's. Soon after lock-down, he stopped getting dressed and ended up staying in bed all day. He was uncommunicative and lost appetite. The family started to plan for him to enter full-time care.

"When his daughter informed him that the centre was reopening, Ron put his clothes on there and then and wanted to go. When, two days later, he finally walked through the door again, he was smiling, sat down near his good friend Elizabeth and also consumed a large lunch.”

“It’s phenomenal and we are writing it up as an article for a professional journal to see if anyone else is interested picking it up for research."

The group has been helped by Apetito in Trowbridge, which stepped in after its regular food supplier put its operation on hold. “They have been brilliant, they are local heroes,” said Mrs Harris. “They have been delivering food for all our members every day completely free.

"It is also good for our staff because the meals are delivered on trays that just have to be put into the oven, so they spend less time in the kitchen prepping and they are more present in the room and taking care of people.”

She thanked the group’s staff and volunteers, and the WCF.

“There have been a lot of logistics to overcome with a lot of PPE being bought and an awful lot of cleaning being done but our staff and volunteers have worked so hard. They are great and when they want to find a way to get something done, they will do it,” she said.

“We are very grateful to the Wiltshire Community Foundation, the grant has been a massive help and we wouldn’t have been able to re-open Trowbridge without it and that would have been a big blow to a lot of people.”

To find out more about the group go to alzheimerswiltshire.org.uk.

Wiltshire Community Foundation co-interim chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “This much-needed centre provides a lifeline for its members and important respite for their families so we are delighted we’ve been able to help them re-open and re-connect with them.”

To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.