Stephen & Philip setting out from Emmaus House, Harrogate
Stephen & Philip setting out from Emmaus House, Harrogate

They did it!  Pilgrims’ Friend Society (PFS) Chief Executive Stephen and Philip Hammersley completed their cycle tour of eight of our housing and care homes in the north and the east in just four days – a total of 450 miles to raise funds for better dementia care.  (Both in our homes and in training others in our workshops and conferences.)

They set out early each morning (between 7.00 and 8.00 am) arriving at their destination around 8.00 each evening, spending a total of 50 hours in the saddle.

Comments on their donations page ranged from, ‘Well done to you both for taking on this challenge and raising the profile of dementia,’ to ‘Hope the wind is blowing behind you!! Great work gentlemen’ and – by the sound of it – from an experienced cyclist, ‘Hope it all goes well for you both and you have plenty of padding!’  Which turned out to be sound advice, as Stephen said that one of the challenges was thinking of ways of not thinking about saddle chafing:  for them it was working out the square root of odd numbers, like 7!

Setbacks included  five punctures and a major bike malfunction that was rescued by a sympathetic garage mechanic;  forcing on through wet and windy weather,  and getting stuck in a bog ‘somewhere south of Royd Court’, in Yorkshire. But these challenges were more than offset by the highlights. Stephen said,  ‘We were cheered up by the warm welcomes and encouragement we received everywhere.  At the Luff Home in Essex, a group of residents waited outside to cheer us in, waiting for us till we arrived three and a half hours late.  And arriving at the Evington home to be greeted by a cake iced with a cycle picture, a cycling tapestry and a tandem in the lounge!  Also the amazing cakes baked for the occasion by Vicki’s daughter (the manager at Royd Court),’ he said.

Greeting at Redbourn Missionary Trust, Herts
Greeting at Redbourn Missionary Trust, Herts
Met with 'bike' cake on arrival
Met with ‘bike’ cake on arrival

Donations have topped £6,643 and it’s hoped they will rise over the next few weeks to meet the target of £10,000.  The Donations page, https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/sphammersley is still open.

Scroll through the comments on the page and you’ll see a more serious note.  It said, ‘Dementia is massively under-funded and our elderly are massively under-valued so absolutely chuffed to have a means of donating.’

The underfunding of dementia care for sufferers and their carers is now at crisis point in the UK, according to leading experts.  Sally Greengross, chief executive of the International Longevity Centre and the former director of Age Concern has described it as ‘an outrage.’  [i]She was responding to figures released by healthcare analysts Laing and Buisson showing that Councils are paying as little as £1.78 an hour on dementia patients in care homes.  The minimum weekly care home fee is £620 a week, or £3.70 an hour, on the understanding that 24 hour care is needed.  Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, which represents UK care services said that it was a complete scandal, adding, ‘How is it possible to deliver quality care, including three meals a day, proper staffing and activities on these amounts?’ [ii]

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services have been warning for some months that the country is at a tipping point in providing care for frail, sick and elderly people at home or in care homes.  It has joined other leading organisations in an open letter in a national newspaper, urging the new Prime Minister to ‘urgently’ address the ‘chronic underfunding’ of care, which has left homes in financial difficulties.[iii]

ResPublica, the think-tank, said that its research projects project a funding gap of over £1billion for older people’s resident care alone by 2020/21, which could result in the loss of around 37,000 beds.  ‘This is greater in scale than the collapse of Southern Cross in 2011, which affected 31,000 older people.’[iv]

The Pilgrims’ Friend Society has been a ‘by faith’ charity for over 209 years, and Trustees are convinced that compassionate, expert care for people with dementia is part of God’s plan for them.  And as always, He works through people to achieve His will!  Do think about helping!  Here’s the Donations page website, again:  https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/sphammersley

[i] [i] The Express Newspaper, 17 July 2016

[ii] http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/690170/Dementia-care-crisis-lack-funding-council-UK

[iv] http://www.respublica.org.uk/our-work/publications/the-care-collapse-the-imminent-crisis-in-residential-care-and-its-impact-on-the-nhs/

Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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