Becoming isolated from others is a worry that many who suffer from dementia fear. Loneliness can creep in, providing fewer opportunities to socialise which can end up leaving those with the condition depressed.

It can be even worse for those with living in care homes or who require frequent visits to dementia day centres, where visits from families and friends can sometimes be infrequent.

However, many groups of people noticed that this isolation was becoming an increasingly common issue, and as such decided to do something about it. With a number of donations both private and corporate, a number of volunteers got together to found the Cocktails in Care Homes charity.

Cocktails in Care Homes

Composed of 250 volunteers, the charity aims to combat isolation by allowing those with dementia in care a place to socialise with both people their own age as well as younger people in a friendly yet party filled environment, with complimentary cocktails of course.

“This is one of the best and most rewarding things I’ve ever done. It’s a brilliant, easy way to volunteer because it just feels like an evening out with friends,” said organiser Maria Rivas.

“You turn up once a month, have a drink, a chat, and maybe a dance and you can see you’re making people happy. What’s not to love about a party?”

And it would seem the many participants in the scheme seem to agree with Maria:

“You can’t beat a bit of a knees-up and a tipple, can you?” said 81-year-old John at one of the recent parties at his care home. “It bucks you up. Cheers!”

How it works

For the care homes involved in the scheme, Cocktails in Care Homes organise a party once a month. Each month is based around a specific theme, for example, the Roaring Twenties or Hollywood Glamour.

Staff provide the drinks, food and decorations, while volunteers of various ages, all trained to communicate and work with those with dementia, attend to help out and socialise with everyone there.

But as well as the event being a chance for those with dementia to relax and socialise, staff are also aware of the benefits it can have in combating the disease itself.

One such way is through the use of music. Residents of the care homes are encouraged to add their favourite songs to a playlist before the evening begins.

This is done in the hope that it will trigger memories of an earlier time in a person with dementia's life.

And while alcohol is a common occurrence at these parties, staff always ensure that no one drinks more than the recommended amount, as well as ensuring that those unable to drink alcohol, such as those who require special medication, are able to have suitable alternatives such as fizzy drinks.

Breaking down barriers

While the scheme has done wonders for those with dementia, it has also had unforeseen successes as well, such as bridging a gap between the young and elderly.

“I work with kids and young adults so I wanted to get involved with the older generation,” said Cocktails in Care Homes worker Katy Hickey.  “I like to think others might do the same for my grandparents should they ever need it.”

And the manager of the scheme has noticed the positive effects too:

“Older people like things that are active, stimulating and creative. They love the energy they get off the younger people”, said manager of Cocktails in Care Homes Sarah Dean.

“It’s great for breaking down the barriers that each generation has towards each other.”