John MacMillan

In 2017, our colleagues in Alzheimer Scotland reported that 93,282 people were living with dementia in Scotland – this number will only have increased in the last three years and most Scottish families will now care for, or know of, someone who is living with dementia. In the UK (at that point), dementia was the only condition in the top ten causes of death without a treatment to prevent, cure or slow its progression. This frightening statistic has only been amplified by the recent coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus has affected every sector of society, but the hardest hit are the elderly – people living with dementia and their carers face many additional challenges on an hour-by-hour, day to day basis. The pandemic has left an already vulnerable section of our communities feeling confused, anxious, lonely, isolated and at times worried and scared.

This is not acceptable.

The Eric Liddell Centre is an Edinburgh based care charity and community hub that was founded in 1980 in memory of the 1924 Olympic gold medallist, Eric Liddell.

Our vision is to Bring Edinburgh’s Communities Together, to respond to isolation, loneliness and society’s disconnection.

Our mission is to be at the heart of the community, enhancing health and wellbeing and improving people’s lives. We are working hard to change the perceptions of living with dementia, disabilities and mental health – we aim to show that living a full life can be achieved with the correct support.

The role of a carer can also be isolating, stressful and in some cases, never ending – a recent Carers UK survey reported that 8 out of 10 carers feel lonely and anxious on a regular basis. Finding ways to cope with the demands of the role, while getting much needed and crucially important respite for themselves, can provide a lifeline and help to extend the time carers can manage to support their loved ones.

Government at a local and national level have made positive steps forward in recent years, but much more is urgently needed. Support for the Eric Liddell Centre and other charities in Scotland has never been more essential.

Since the initial lockdown, the Eric Liddell Centre has put in place a range of measures to continue to support those who need it most.

This has included a Lunch Delivery Programme for the vulnerable, practical support, help and advice to those living with dementia together with online, digital, health and wellbeing activities.

We have also provided telephone support to carers, individuals and groups and introduced innovative support programmes for those who were initially in the “sheltered group.”

These additional support services were put in place within 24 hours, following the closure of the Eric Liddell Centre on the advice of government.

Our main programmes and the innovative support mechanisms that we have put in place to respond to the pandemic, have provided a lifeline to many families in Edinburgh.

Scotland as a nation has always endeavoured to look after our own and charities such as the Eric Liddell Centre have played their part in a quiet and unobtrusive manner, with an unrelenting focus on the needs and circumstances of others.

On the 26th November, we will host our 40th Anniversary celebration online with our main speakers, my brother Sir James MacMillan, Sally Magnusson, our Patron Alexander McCall Smith, Lord David Puttnam and Patricia Liddell, Eric’s daughter.

What can you do to help the Eric Liddell Centre and other local charities to make a difference in your community?

Please make contact and get involved – your help and input has never been so needed.

John MacMillan, CEO, Eric Liddell Centre