Although Community Circles form to support a particular person, the relationships that form between the other participants can also lead to positive experiences for everyone involved. In Lynda’s case, her friends and family gained a sense of community and belonging from working together to help her live well with dementia.
Lynda is a generous, wonderfully kind and gentle person. Lynda is living with dementia, and during Dementia Week at the local carers’ resource centre, Cath met Alan, Lynda’s husband. They chatted about Community Circles and the support they could offer. Alan felt that a Community Circles could support Lynda to live well with dementia and also offer him support in his role as a carer.
Cath, Alan and Lynda met at Lynda and Alan’s home and chatted about what a Community Circle could specifically help them with. Using a relationship map they identified people in Lynda’s life who they could invite to the Circle to talk about Lynda’s wellbeing. Alan shared their contact details with Cath, who got in touch with people by phone to invite them to the first Circle meeting.
Coming together to support Lynda and Alan
At the meeting, Lynda’s family and friends gathered together over tea and scones to share happy memories of time they had spent with her. Cath facilitated focused conversations, which helped the Circle to bond together around a common purpose. The people at the meeting included some of their friends, plus their son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren who joined in via Skype. In total, nine people came together to form Lynda’s Circle.
The second Circle meeting reflected on what is important to Lynda, as well as what was working and not working in her life. One Circle member commented that the conversations had “brought issues up, made room for action, and now we know what to do that makes a difference.”
At this meeting actions were developed to support Lynda’s wellbeing. As a result, Lynda is now volunteering at a local walking group. She loves the outdoors and walking and enjoys welcoming new members to the group, and having a valued role really supports her wellbeing.
The group reflects on what is working and not working in Lynda’s life at every Circle meeting. Alan, Lynda’s husband, shared that he was struggling with cooking. He said that it was a role that he has never done, and now that Lynda is not able to do any more, he was finding it difficult. The Circle members discussed ideas and decided to start their own casserole club, cooking an extra meal a couple of times a month to support Lynda and Alan to have home-cooked meals.
The Circle has supported Lynda to maintain friendships and has created ripples of wellbeing through all its members. Lynda and Alan have the support they need, their friends know what they can do to help them. The other members of Lynda’s Circle have also benefited, as they feel that there is a sense of belonging through giving and connecting with each other.
At the first meeting, we asked Lynda how close she was to achieving her goal of living well with dementia; and Lynda responded that she felt far from achieving her goal. After a year with her Circle, Cath asked Lynda the same question. As a result her friends and family coming together to support her, she identified a significant reduction in her feeling of loneliness; and as she was now volunteering at a local walking club, and had developed new connections to support her to improve her own wellbeing, she felt that she was now living with her dementia much more positively than before.
“It brought issues up, made room for action, and now we know what to do that makes a difference.”
Alan, circle member