LIVING with dementia should not mean living without joy. That’s the longstanding ethos of a local charity now celebrating ten years of service to their community.

Based at the Torch Centre in Hexham, Chrysalis Club Tynedale provides activities and support for people with dementia, and their families.

Born out of a successful art class specifically designed for people with living with the illness, Chrysalis was founded by Rosemary Robson, Cassie Stephenson and Liz Tate, when they became aware of the need for better dementia-friendly services offering activities and hobbies.

“We met through our connections with Dementia Care Partnership in Newcastle,” said Rosemary. “Cassie and I had set up a regular art class in Hexham with a occupational therapist called Jo Moore, which allowed people with dementia and their relatives or friends to take part once a week. When it was decided that the class would be cut, we became the three musketeers, and searched together for a new space to hold the class on our own.”

Before finding a permanent home at the Torch Centre in 2010, Chrysalis set up for a time at the Fairnington Centre in Hexham. The trio found that classes quickly rising in popularity, and interest began to bubble amongst members for the club to expand to boarder activities.

“We then officered gardening and singing classes, and then leather and woodwork shops. Ever since then the list just keeps on getting longer as our numbers grow too,” said Liz.

Some of the latest additions to be incorporated into the schedule have included dancing, pottery, archery, drumming and boccia.

“We call ourselves a club, because our focus is to bring people together to connect and have fun, not to feel as though they are in a day care regime,” said Cassie. “We call those with dementia our club members, and those who come along with we refer to as family members, and avoid any terms which seem medical based, such as carer, because although they might care for their loved one, that term comes with a lot of pressure.”

The name Chrysalis was suggested by a family member, who felt it was fitting, as the club had offered a new beginning for her.

“I think what makes us different from other dementia charities is that we involve the whole family,” Liz said. “For example we offer carer information and legal advice courses, and a support group where family members can talk about their shared experience, whether they are the husband, wife, child or friend of someone with dementia. Its important for them to realize that they aren’t alone in this.”

Liz also runs ‘Catch Up Club’, where the family of members who have either passed away or been placed in care can come together once a month to continue to meet and socialize with one another.

Along with the founding trio, Chrysalis runs through the work of volunteers. This year, Lola Plumb joined the team as operations co-ordinator, a role funded by the the Tudor Trust, who provide grants for community and volunteer groups.

“We get a lot of people tell us that they wished they had something similar to Chrysalis in their towns and cities, but sadly not everyone who needs it can have access to the same resources,” said Liz.

“We’ve been very lucky to not only receive funding from national bodies but also from our local community. Any donation, no matter the size, is always so appreciated, and will allow us to carry on our work for hopefully another ten years.”