Sycamore Club

The Sycamore Club arose out of a need in the local community for a day centre to care for elderly people with some form of psychiatric illness. The need had come to light following a suggestion from the local churches that their members might be able to offer help to the elderly if it was required. One of the church members happened to be a physician on the staff of the geriatric department of the local hospital and was able to ask around for ideas. The psycho-geriatrician at the time expressed a desire for such a day centre, there being none in the area involved of Amersham Little Chalfont and Chesham Bois. Thus this ecumenical project began and opened in October 1978, seven months after the first suggestion was made.
The aim is twofold:
      1. To aid older people with mental health problems by providing genuine care and stimulating activities one day per week.
      2. To offer relief to the families and neighbours who care for these individuals in the community.

A maximum of twelve patients (known as members) can be accommodated in the room that is available to us. Some forms of dementia, depression or, less frequently, psychosis are the illnesses suffered by the members. Sometimes the illness is at an early stage, but sadly others are not referred until later in the disease. Over the years, there have been very few people with whom it has not been possible to cope. Nearly all remain with the club until some form of residential care is required or until death intervenes. Over twelve months, an average of five to seven new members are enlisted, and there is often a waiting list.

Although the majority of the members are known to one of the Community Psychiatric Nurses attached to the local Department of Mental Health for the Elderly, their welfare at the Club is the responsibility of a team of voluntary helpers, mostly recruited from the local churches. There are always over twenty helpers who have various responsibilities, and who attend for the times and hours suitable for them, but all are fully committed. Four of the helpers are designated as leaders, being in charge for a day according to a rota. One of the leaders is also the co-ordinator, being responsible overall for the Club. It is this team of loyal, devoted helpers who have made the Club as successful and as useful in the community as it has become.

Activities and ventures at the Club are made as interesting and varied as possible and are organised and prepared in advance. Christmas, Easter and Harvest are celebrated appropriately, as are other special days in the calendar. The Club's birthday is a very special occasion and every member's birthday is also celebrated.

Members arrive from 9.30 am onwards. Coffee and biscuits are served on arrival and there is then time for general conversation and activities such as dominoes or table games. This time is much appreciated by those members living alone. Around 11.00 am there is a supervised time for exercises to music, followed by a singsong. Music for both of these activities is provided by pianists, about five in all, who attend according to a rota. Music plays a very important part in the Club. A two-course lunch is provided with coffee or tea to follow. After the afternoon's entertainment, tea and home made cakes are provided before members are escorted home.

Most of the members are happy with their day's outing and respond favourably, and visibly, to the kindly care they are given, going home with a cheerful smile and often a "thank you". Sadly, because of the nature of their illness, little can be recalled by some to their relatives at home. Many can recall at least some of the happenings and are pleased to return the next week. For the carers, the relief of having a few hours of respite from constant vigilance is the main benefit. Would it were more often! The carers also find the helpers have very sympathetic ears and can spend a little time with them and fellow carers, over a cup of tea at the end of the day. For the volunteers, the work may be hard but it is rewarding. All enjoy the spirit of friendleness that has grown from working together for the benefit of the community in this truly ecumenical project.

Contact: Beverley Underwood 01494 725339