Onkar is 85 years old, originally from India he now lives in Tooting with his wife, Anu. Onkar has Dementia and Parkinson’s, conditions affecting his memory, mobility and speech. He comes into the hospice once a week to attend the Monday Club, a volunteer-led weekly programme of activities and support for people living with dementia and their carers.

The Monday Club is facilitated by seven volunteers including David, a retired civil servant. David says ‘We greet them like good friends and say “It’s nice to see you at the Monday Club again” so that they are reminded where they are.’

The Monday Club starts with music and singing. David says ‘The singing session is particularly powerful and it seems to lifts the collective mood.’ After singing the group do some gentle exercise routines and sometimes they move on to playing quoits, keeping a balloon in the air or bouncing a soft ball around the group. Following this there is a creative activity session; sometimes this can be working with paint, stickers, books or memory cards.

David says ‘It’s fun and there’s lots of praise, humour and reassurance. Even when thoughts are lost and speech limited, a sparkle in the eye or a broad smile shows us that they are engaging with the activities. Sometimes you’ll throw the ball to somebody and their eyes will light up and you’ll know there’s something in there. And that’s a great joy really.’

‘When Onkar comes to Monday Club, he welcomes people with a smile. He talks fondly of his wife and family, beaming with pride and delight when speaking of his granddaughter. With prompting he recalls moments of his of his life in India and Tooting.’ says David.

‘Onkar joins in the activities and interacts with people around him. His remarks reveal an underlying intelligence, thoughtfulness and a wry sense of humour. I think he likes the conversation best. He likes sitting around the table and just having a little gentle chat. You can see how the Monday Club is a stimulus and source of enjoyment for him.’ he continues.

David reflects back on some of the best moments he’s had with Onkar. He says ‘Onkar talks about his love of Indian classical music and we were able to get some off Spotify. We started playing it during the group. When the music is played, it triggers some memories for him and he will say “Oh I’ve heard this person in concert” or “I saw them” and it will take him back a long time. Sometimes he will smile and start speaking about his past life in India. Those have been great moments. And the other moments which stand out have been when we’ve seen his love and dependency on Anu and his family.’

Onkar, who also has a Trinity Befriending Volunteer, has been married to Anu for 46 years. They have 2 children together and 2 grandchildren. Anu now cares for Onkar and says ‘When I first came to the hospice I thought it was wonderful, absolutely wonderful.’

Anu speaks positively about the difference the Monday Club has made. She says ‘Onkar has told me he is happy there and I think it’s really good that it’s so personal. It’s quite a small group so I know that Onkar is getting lots of support.’

Knowing Onkar is in safe hands, Anu also gets a break from caring. She says ‘It’s given me a lot of time I didn’t have. I can get some jobs sorted out because I’m doing everything. I’ve got to do the paperwork, run a home and also look after Onkar which is sometimes very hard.’

Anu speaks openly about how overwhelming being a carer of somebody with dementia can be sometimes. She says ‘It’s not an easy thing to live with for others. It’s very difficult. No two days are the same and there’s good and bad. But the support from the hospice has been so good.’