Care ConneXion Café and the Capture of Carole
By two o’clock on the second Wednesday of the month it’s a hive of activity at the Care ConneXion Wellbeing Café in the Holy Nativity Parish Centre, Chapel House, on the west side of Newcastle.
The Revd Anne Marr and a team of church helpers are in place to help Care ConneXion’s founder, Carole Lawson (left in picture, with a Care ConneXion customer), run their monthly drop-in for carers in the local community.
The heart of the operation in Holy Nativity’s bright new centre is a social afternoon for those who care for sick, elderly or troubled family and relatives. In the centre’s hall there’s a scatter of tables and chairs, with volunteers serving hot and cold drinks with a tasty range of cakes. It’s not just those who care who are arriving; some of them have brought the people they care for as well, and there are good things for them all.
“We’ve got people here today from Carers’ Centre Newcastle to talk with anyone needing help with budgets, and Deborah’s come from Your Homes Newcastle (they manage Newcastle’s council housing) to see what we’re about,” explains Carole Lawson.
“We’re also offering aromatherapy and manicure today. If you have your nails painted, it can help you remember where you’ve been, what you did and who you met in a few days’ time.”
Carole’s interest in people who care for others at home is rooted in her own experience. Her husband Dave was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at 50 and died at 61; her daughter Carolyn has Down’s Syndrome, and both her mum and her mum-in-law had dementia.
As Dave’s condition worsened Carole longed for somewhere she could simply go out with her husband to relax with a coffee or a beer and meet people who would understand, and initially she helped to get this under way at the Dementia Care Partnership’s Bradbury Centre (Brunswick Village). But a grant of £78,000 to Carers’ Centre Newcastle by the City Council to provide more local facilities prompted Carole to put in a bid for a slice of it; “Just think what you could do!”
£5,000 of that money lent support to the Bradbury Centre and enabled Care Connexions to get under way in the Holy Nativity Centre in June 2011. Since then grant support has come from two local ward committees who recognise local needs. “We began with just a couple of people coming; now it’s around fifteen,” says Carole. “We need to get the word out there.”
The Revd Anne Marr, Deacon at Holy Nativity Church, adds, “Some of our visitors are ex-carers too. The person they’ve looked after dies or goes away, and suddenly they don’t know what they’re about any more. Being a former carer – and perhaps quite elderly too – is quite a challenge.”
'Now I'm captured'
How does Carole come to be involved with Holy Nativity? Originally from Lemington, she “belonged to every church in the City so that I could shout at God and tell him how unfair he is.” Her daughter Carolyn started coming to Holy Nativity, where Dave had made two wooden crosses and his mother had been a worshipper; “there were lots of family connections so I got hijacked!”
“Suddenly I felt I belonged – so now I’m captured.”
As Carole is called to a conversation with a visitor at the cafe, she repeats an invitation, “Anyone is welcome to Care ConneXion Café. Come and enjoy the home made food, conversation and activities, also confidential advice on personal budgets and carer support.”
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