CARING for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be a testing time.

It tests patience, resilience and carer’s physical and mental strength.

When providing 24/7 care, there comes a time when something as simple as making a phone call seems an impossible task.

Action for Family Carers understands those looking after their loved ones also need to look after themselves.

The need for respite is essential and their new day centre in Tiptree provides just that.

Norma Pepperell, from Mersea, picks up her husband Philip, 82, from the centre.

Philip has been living with Alzheimer’s for ten years.

Norma, 77, takes him to the centre, which opened in January, every Monday. He also attends Maldon’s respite centre once a week.

This week, an entertainer has come in for some post-lunch singing. He kicks things off with the Doris Day classic Que Sera, Sera and encourages the members to dance along and play instruments.

Philip is reading the words from a song book - music has always been one of his passions and he seems completely in his element.

“He can’t be left alone,” Norma said. “We get through the day - go for walks or go shopping, or we are out in the garden - but you have to keep an eye on him all the time.

“I think most people here are in the same boat.”

She has two worry free days a week while her husband is at the day centres.


They are precious opportunity for Norma.

“You start something and then you hear a noise and you think ‘What’s happening?’” she said.

“You have to go and look and make sure he hasn’t gone out on his own.

“It’s nice to have a bit of time to be able to go out with someone or make some phone calls, it’s my relief.”

While he is at the day centre Philip, who used to work in the civil service, enjoys listening to music or browsing through books.

It costs Norma £41 per session but knowing her husband of 54 years is in good hands, it is worth every penny.

“He is quiet a lot of the time but if they play music he joins in,” she said.

“He loves dogs, he comes alive when he sees the petting dogs at the centre.

“I know he is safe and well looked after.”

The group at Tiptree Community Centre includes care staff who attend to physical and emotional needs.

Up to 20 members also get a lunch and can take part in activities and games.


Service manager Jayne Hare said after realising there was no such provision in Tiptree, finding funding was crucial.

Support came from the Colchester Catalyst Charity, Tesco and Tiptree Parish Council which each provided cash for the start-up.

Activities at the centre including mind stimulating arts and crafts or scrabble and the centre also organises trips out such as to Prested Hall for afternoon tea.

The service also has six volunteers, who give up their time to help out.

In the four months the Tiptree centre has been open, the members have already proved its worth.

Jayne said: “Singing especially brings the members out a lot, and that interaction between each other. Whatever they want, they have. Also, the carer can become so isolated so this is essential.”

The service runs on Mondays from 10am to 3pm.

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