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Destigmatizing dementia in a small Scottish town


When the Rotary Club of Duns, Scotland, dedicated its charitable efforts to dementia several years ago, a few of its members, including 2014-15 Club President David McLuckie, were all too familiar with the disease’s toll. His mother-in-law had lived for years with dementia, and the club’s junior president had also lost a parent to the illness.

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“There was a lot of interest within the club to make things better within our community for caregivers and families, ” says McLuckie.

They started with a fundraising dinner, organized by Rotarian Grant Stephen, to benefit Alzheimer Scotland. There were three popular speakers, an auction, and more than 150 guests, netting this small club more than $12,000. Stephen was recognized with a Champions of Change Award by Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland for his efforts.

But the club didn’t stop there.

When McLuckie’s wife, Audrey, proposed opening a “dementia café ” to give caregivers and people with dementia a place to meet for tea, share information, and learn from visiting social workers and other experts, the club funded the café’s rent and other expenses to operate one afternoon a month at Duns Parish Church.

“I’d heard about these cafés from Alzheimer Scotland and thought it would be a good idea in Duns, ” says Audrey, whose mother died a month before the café opened in January 2015. “I was lucky to have a supportive husband and sister, and access to good information, but not everyone has that.”

We wanted to make it something people were not afraid to talk about.

Rotarian wives and other volunteers brought baked goods each month to what became the Forget-Me-Not Café (it’s moving to a cozy new space this summer). And local Rotarians asked for donations to the café in lieu of gifts on their birthdays

The Duns club was also certified as “Dementia Friendly” by Alzheimer Scotland, after a visiting dementia nurse took Rotarians through a training about the disease. 

“We wanted to raise the profile of dementia,” Audrey McLuckie says about the café and the club’s campaign. “We wanted to make it something people were not afraid to talk about.”

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