A HYDE man admits receiving a British Empire Medal in the New Year’s Honours list is the ‘icing on the cake.’
But Roy Bate wondered if the letter notifying him meant something completely different – a call-up for National Service!
The 83-year-old, of Newton, has had the recognition bestowed upon him for the work he has done in helping people living with dementia through the Forget-Me-Not Buddies charity.
And being told came as a surprise as Roy said: “To be honest when I saw the envelope about my nomination I hadn’t a clue what it was.
“My first thought was, ‘I’m too bloody old if they’re bringing back National Service and done it once!’
“I was very surprised when I read about my nomination. It’s not something you ever expect to drop through the door but I’m very glad it has done.
“I’m still a bit shocked I think. I’m very proud to have been nominated for something I love and enjoy so much.”
Roy founded Forget-Me-Not Buddies after he and daughter Carrol Ashton experienced caring for his wife Irene, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2013 at the age of 75.
They found the support being offered to carers and those being cared for was lacking, so decided to set up their own, self-funded, independent cause, which is now based at Denton Methodist Church on Hyde Road.
Roy added: “People would help with forms and arrange talks – but what about carers and cared for getting together in a safe environment where everyone understands what the others are going through and enjoying themselves, a few hours a week of chatting, laughing, dancing and generally trying to forget the Dementia running their lives?
“So we decided to start our own group and Forget-Me-Not Buddies (Tameside) was born. It started with me arranging a trip to go ten-pin bowling where about eight attended – people I had met on our dementia journey.
“The bowling became a monthly thing. One of the original bowling party passed away and his wife asked for donations to pay for future bowling trips instead of flowers as he had loved them so much.
“From there it just grew and grew, we started fundraising and arranging more varied outings and a weekly club social gathering.”
The Covid-19 pandemic meant social interaction had to be kept at a minimum but that did not stop Roy nor Forget-Me-Not Buddies.
After starting with eight, now membership is approaching 70 people.
He added: “2020 was a very difficult year for everyone but we lost quite a few Buddies – the total lack of social interaction saw a speedy decline in the cared for who either passed away or deteriorated so much they needed more care than could be given at home so now live in care homes.
“The numbers are growing again now and with the number of people needing our type of support, we will be back to over 70 members in no time.
“Forget-Me-Not Buddies is an extended family – getting out, enjoying yourself and living life as you best can even with dementia is so important and Forget-Me-Not Buddies (Tameside) is here to help you do just that.”
Roy originally hails from Gorton and his National Service in the Royal Army Medical Corps changed his work direction.
After doing an engineering apprenticeship, he worked for the NHS as a theatre technician and progressing to being Chief Neonatal Technician in the Special Care Baby Unit at St Mary’s Hospital until he retired in 2000.
He sadly lost Irene in 2017 but what he and his family went through made a lasting impression that has resulted in his BEM.
He said: “Dementia is a terrible disease and the person you have loved for so many years starts to disappear in front of you.
“Caring 24/7 for someone with dementia is very hard but you try your best, putting their wellbeing before your own and risk carer burnout yourself.
“I’m 84 soon and Forget-Me-Not Buddies keeps me going. So far, it’s been a busy but very happy life and a BEM for doing something I love is my icing on my cake.”