THREE women from Keighley are between them operating a seven-day-a-week helpline for people living with dementia.

One of the team from Dementia Friendly Keighley is taking a turn on the phone line despite herself being forced to self-isolate.

Helen Charters, Nichola Williams and Barbara Wood take turns to answer calls from 10am to 2pm every day of the week, and additionally respond to messages left at other times.

Helen is the project support administrator with Dementia Friendly Keighley (DFK) and Nichola is the charity’s Resource and Reminiscence worker.

Barbara is a DFK volunteer who has been in complete isolation since the start of lockdown, and operates the helpline on Sunday evenings while Nichola and Helen cover the other six days between them. Messages can be left outside those hours and a member of the team will call back as soon as they can.

The team, along with trustee and treasurer Maggie Marsden, also make calls to people living with dementia who had built relationships with DFK before the lockdown began. Maggie said: “In normal times we work with a lot of people who are living with dementia in the Keighley area and they have come to rely on the groups, activities and support we provide. “Dementia is a difficult illness and without access to those sources of help, tensions were bound to increase for some people. A regular call from a familiar, friendly voice can help to relieve some of that tension and remind people that they are not alone.” Maggie said the telephone helpline had its roots in what began as a routine planning meeting for the charity on March 16 this year.

She said: “It was obvious that coronavirus was spreading and drastic measures would be put in place to protect the public and save lives. “We realised we would not be able to provide our usual activities and support for people living with dementia, and the meeting quickly turned into a Covid-19 strategy planning meeting.

“Our immediate reaction was to set up a helpline that would be available every day, including weekends, to provide people affected by dementia with the help and support they need.

“The phone line started operating one week later and has continued to be available every day since then.”

In addition to the telephone lines, DFK is providing resource and activity packs for those that need them. These packs are tailored for each individual.

Nichola said: “When I talk to a carer or someone with dementia I like to find out a bit about them and see what their interests are. Then I can make up an activity pack that suits their individual needs and deliver them to their door. “The resources are specifically designed to engage people with dementia and the packs can be refreshed or replaced every couple of weeks.”

Once lockdown has been eased, Dementia Friendly Keighley plans to reopen its information and support centre in Keighley and activities.

Nichola said: “Until then we don’t want people to struggle through alone. We are here to support you and your families. “If anyone feels that they need some help or advice please don’t hesitate to give us a call. Tell us how you are and what we can do to help you. We would love to hear from you.”

The helpline number is 07452 773788.

Maggie recently ran a half-marathon in Holme House Woods, between Fell Lane and Braithwaite, to raise money for Dementia Friendly Keighley.

At the same time, elsewhere in town, members Roy Williams, Bridget Izod and David Halsall did their own fundraising runs and walks in support.