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Study visit to Netherlands Inspires Northern Regional College Lecturer


Group standing outside building

Inspired by a study visit to the Netherlands in 2019, a lecturer at Northern Regional College has been the driving force behind mentoring learners in their project to open a dementia friendly café in Larne. Bluebell Café at the Gillaroo Nursing home was officially opened by local personality Olivia Nash, better known as the diminutive ‘Ma’ in Give My Head Peace. It is the first dementia friendly café to open in the Mid and East Antrim Council area.

Health and Social Care lecturer, Jacqui McAllister, explained the rationale behind the café and why she would like to see more dementia friendly cafés and other social spaces for people with dementia opening across Northern Ireland:

“During my study visit to the Netherlands, I saw examples of best practice and how dementia had been ‘normalised’ by providing welcoming, safe places for people with dementia and their families. As a result, many people living with dementia were on less medication and there is growing evidence to show that their behaviour had become less challenging as a result.

Jacqui continued: “Depending on the type of dementia, it can affect people in different ways. The impact can be physical, emotional and or psychological, and it can also lead to a significant change in the practicalities of everyday life.

“I realised that we needed to create a new dementia care pathway and, as a first step towards creating a greater awareness around dementia, the College has introduced part-time Awareness of Dementia Level 2 training courses, both at our Newtownabbey campus, as well as online.

“The courses are designed to give people an improved understanding of dementia, to recognise the signs and symptoms of dementia and how to care for someone with dementia.

“The Level 2 courses incorporate recommendations from the Department of Health’s regional strategy for “Improving Dementia Services in Northern Ireland, which draws on best practice here and makes recommendations to improve the services and support arrangements for people with dementia, their families, and their carers,” she added.

Staff at the Gillaroo Nursing home have completed the Dementia Awareness training at the College.

Speaking at the official opening of the Bluebell Café. Olivia Nash congratulated everyone involved in the initiative and wished them every success.

“I have had a long association with the wonderful staff at the Gillaroo Nursing Home. They are always very friendly and welcoming, and I certainly look forward to making a return visit to the Bluebell Café.”

Gillaroo Nursing Manager, Nikki McCrudden thanked Northern Regional College staff for helping to facilitate the opening of such a unique facility at the nursing home.

“We were delighted to avail of the training delivered by the College to help raise awareness of dementia among our staff.”

Nikki added: “With over 20,000 people with dementia in Northern Ireland, there is a lot of work to be done to create dementia friendly communities and our café is a step in the right direction.

“Sometimes people just need a little extra support to go about their routine and this will be a safe and comfortable space for them to meet and socialise.”

Initially the Bluebell Café will open on the second Tuesday of every month and if there is sufficient demand, the opening hours may be extended. To avoid disappointment, please book in advance, telephone 028 2826 0033 

The Department for the Economy has made upskilling and reskilling a priority in growing the Northern Ireland economy to meet its changing demands. The training provided by Northern Regional College for Gillaroo Nursing Home was fully funded by the DfE under the Skill Up – Flexible Skills Fund and InnovateUs programmes.

Eoin McGahon, Technical Specialist with the College who advised on the InnovateUs element of the training, explained that his focus on was helping Gillaroo Nursing Home provide a new service and service innovation:

“The dementia awareness training was funded by Skill Up while InnovateUs funding was used to provide training on the skills needed to set-up the café and help staff develop skills for the service delivery. The innovative aspect of the project was to encourage greater use of IT for booking, social media and business management.”

Find oure more about the range of practical, effective services Northern Regional College offers to help local business get improved results at www.nrc.ac.uk.