Volunteers needed as Alzheimer’s support grows

British volunteers in Normandy and Dordogne are working with the national charity Association France Alzheimer (AFA) to help English-speakers who have or are caring for someone with dementia

A growing number of expats across France are having to learn to cope with Alzheimer’s and would be grateful for support. Terry Wright became involved two years ago in Orne, Normandy, after meeting the local AFA president and being told people needed help in their own language.

She said: “We now have six cases where we have regular contact and others we talk to once in a while.

“I can have six to eight enquiries in a month which do not come just from people in the Orne, but from neighbouring Manche and Mayenne.

“Many of us came to France for the better lifestyle. Now we are all getting older and, sadly, there are cases of Alzheimer’s. It can be hard to cope, particularly in a foreign language.”

Mrs Wright says the French system is very pro-active and fully accessible to English-speakers with a lot of services on offer. They want to ensure people know and understand the choices that are available.

“We try to give useful information, and hold coffee mornings where people can talk and we have some activities like singing familiar old songs. We also put on fund raising so people can afford a translator to help them.

“We always have a great deal of support from the local English-speaking community on these occasions. Many people know someone who is affected and are happy to join in.”

She hopes to have premises soon in La Ferté-Macé, Orne for regular meet-ups and added. “It would be super to have more volunteers!”

A support group in Dordogne has met for five years and has created the Réseau Anglophone network of English-speaking volunteers.

Chris Grasby is a vice-president of AFA Dordogne and said: “We have two volunteers who can help in the north at Ribérac and Excideuil, and are recruiting volunteers elsewhere.  

“Both in Orne and in Dordogne we have begun translation of the most important French guidance. We also give presentations to interested groups to give information on Alzheimer’s and associated diseases.

“In Bergerac, as in Orne, we started as a drop-in centre for people to take part in activities and to understand how to navigate the complexities of the French care and support system.

“Most importantly, working within an established French charity we have an incredible resource for exactly that.

“And, of course, we are very happy to provide information to anyone in the rest of France who would like to set up a similar service.”

Working with Association France Alzheimer has been important: “They have been very generous with support and have even given us a budget to help cover transport for home visits.

“They want to make sure people get the help they need, irrespective of whether they speak French or not.

“If you want to help directly, it is useful to have a fairly good level of French so you can take part in their training courses and give the best advice and support.”

He added: “In many cases people seem unable to accept they need help. Caring 24/7 for someone with dementia is incredibly demanding and tends to generate a sort of tunnel vision.

“It is important to prepare for the possibility of dementia with a LPA (Lasting Power of Attorney) for UK affairs and Tutelle or Mandat de protection future in France. Once a person has lost the ability to make a decision for themselves, it can be difficult to do so and the alternative may involve being made a ward of court.”

Get in touch:

Orne: Terry Wright 
thewrightskmt@hotmail.co.uk
09 67 87 15 60

Dordogne: Chris Grasby 
cgrasby@gmx.com
06 09 21 06 09

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