Brethren from all over the Province of West Lancashire gathered at Brookfield Masonic Hall, in Westhoughton to attend the Provincial Almoners dinner. The guest speaker was Gina Shaw - the star of the current dementia awareness campaign which is running nationally, highlighting the many difficulties caused by Alzheimer’s.
Over 150 brethren attend the dinner, which had as its principal guest the Provincial Grand Master, Tony Harrison. The principal visitors included, Gina Shaw, Hazel Bayley from the Alzheimer’s Society Debra Keeling from Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and Ray Martland, Harry Cox and David Grainger all of whom are APrGM’s, along with most of the Provincial care team and many lodge almoners and brethren.
After the meal was served the Provincial Grand Almoner, Ernie Greenhalgh proposed a toast to the Provincial Grand Master. Tony thanked Ernie for the very kind proposition of the toast to his health and the ladies, gentlemen and brethren for their kind reception of it.
He continued: “It is an honour for me to be here with you again, at this the third Provincial Almoners Annual Dinner since Ernie was appointed as the Provincial Grand Almoner. I am particularly pleased to be able to officially launch the new care structure which started on 5 October this year. A great deal of work has been completed over the last year by Ernie and his team in order to prepare for the launch of the new system.
Ernie has been supported during the last year by the CEO and officers from the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity, the Provincial publicity team and of course the CEOs and their teams in the Central Charities and I thank all of them for their hard work and support.
Last year I said a change in the Care Structure within the Province had my full approval. My cabinet also approved and agreed to support the initiative which we all agreed would further advance and improve care in the Province of West Lancashire.
As Ernie has said on many occasions it has been increasingly apparent that the lodge almoner`s task has in general terms had become too onerous and therefore it was clear that there was a need to reduce his workload, to enable him to carry out the most important function of an almoner - that of pastoral care. I hope that during the next 12 months almoners across the Province will embrace the new structure as it will give them more time to spend visiting their windows and brethren who are ill or in need of support even if that is calling in for a cup of tea and a chat.
I am delighted to welcome Mrs Gina Shaw to our Province and to say how much we are looking forward to hearing what she has to say to us about the many difficulties caused by Alzheimer’s.
In conclusion I wish to take this opportunity to again thank the Provincial Grand Almoner, Ernie Greenhalgh, his deputy, all the members of the care team and all of you, together with almoners across the Province, for the work that they have been undertaking and for all the work that I trust they will continue to undertake as they strive to implement the new care structure for the benefit of all Freemasons and their dependants in West Lancashire.”
Before Gina’s talk the winners of the raffle held during the dinner were drawn. The first prize of a long weekend for four people in a luxury cottage in South Lakeland courtesy of Barry Robinson was won by Bill Hinchliffe, the second prize £100 of Tesco vouchers courtesy of Tesco’s Stores was won by James Simms and the third prize of a pleasure flight for up to three people from Blackpool Airport for up to 45 minutes courtesy of Derek Midgley was won by Alan Jones. The Raffle raised £950 with £500 being donated to Alzheimer’s Society and £450 to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity.
Ernie then thanked all the members of the care team for their dedication and hard work they have put in over the past three years under his watch. He said: “By streamlining the system and taking away the administration work, the opportunity occurs for almoners to make an important contribution to the wellbeing of our widows and brethren of all ages by increasing the number of pastoral care visits.”
He then introduced Gina, who has he said: “Unfortunately seen both sides of the problems caused by Alzheimer’s, having been diagnosed as being in the early stages of dementia, Gina is here to speak about her experiences since learning about her health issues.”
Gina thanked Ernie for his introduction and the brethren for their very warm welcome. She then spoke about how she had first encountered dementia when her “Nana” started to show signs of the illness, which she said started with her nana looking for her daughters who were at the time in their 30’s but her nana thought they still lived at home and she could not find them so she was knocking on Gina’s door in the middle of the night.
Gina said that eventually her nana had to go into care which in those days ensured her nana was: “Fed, washed and had clean cloths – but received no care, in the real sense” She said she was pleased to say today’s care homes are far better and offer excellent standards of care and offer new experiences for their clients with dementia. Gina said these include days out, shopping trips etc.
She then spoke about ‘SURF’ Service User Reference Forum which enables people with dementia and their carers to join is with other people living with dementia and carers who meet once a month to drive forward changes in local services in Liverpool and the community. One example Gina gave was a dementia checkout being trialled by Tesco’s in Chester that has pictures of money as many people who have dementia have difficulty managing / counting money.
Another example Gina gave was the need for understanding in shops where people with dementia and their carers need to share changing rooms and due to single gender policy in shops people living with dementia have difficulty trying cloths on as they are unable to cope on their own and need the assistance of their carer who may not be the same gender so can’t go in the changing room. Gina said that some stores in Liverpool One were now offering an area where people living with dementia and their carers can try cloths on – this was thanks to the Mayor of Liverpool who have hosted an evening for retailers, transport operators and emergency servicer to hear about the difficulties encountered by people living with dementia when doing everyday things taken for granted by most people.
Gina also gave an insight into living with dementia, including the change in vision, which she described seeing a mat on the floor appeared to her as a hole in the ground that she would walk around as she was afraid of falling into it. She said some people had very frightening hallucinations and even things as not seeing white meant she had red dinner plates as she could not see the food on a white plate.
At the end of her talk Gina was given a standing ovation by the brethren.
There are now 800,000 people with dementia in the UK and there are estimated to be 670,000 family and friends acting as primary carers
The current financial cost of dementia is £23,000,000,000 a year. Yet this significant spend is often not deployed effectively and is not delivering good outcomes for people with dementia and carers. Many people with dementia and their carers are still not living well with the condition and quality of life remains extremely varied.
Not only do people face potential battles for a diagnosis and support from the health and social care system, but everyday things we all take for granted - having control over daily life, spending time with friends and family, socialising and enjoying hobbies - are made difficult by a lack of understanding of dementia in our communities.