Last week (14th – 20th May) was Dementia Awareness Week, an initiative by Alzheimer’s Society, asking people to unite against dementia, to urgently find a cure, improve care and to offer help and understanding.
Dementia affects around 80% of people living in care homes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Verbal’s Reading Rooms have worked with people living with dementia since its inception in 2013, including those in care homes across Northern Ireland. Our bespoke training includes how to facilitate the needs of those living with dementia and the importance of adopting the six senses approach for relationship-centred work.
We have also linked with DEEDS (Derry Engaging & Empowering Dementia) for Dementia Awareness training for our volunteers. This was followed by training in Direct Communication for those living with dementia with Dr Amanda Leitch, Healthcare Specialist in Dementia and Business Development, to helps equip our volunteers with the skills and confidence they need when delivering Reading Rooms out in the community.
One of the homes that we are working with under the Henry Smith funded programme is Seven Oaks, a dementia care unit in the Waterside. Sinead Devine, Reading Rooms Officer for Older People: “We have a wonderful core group that really enjoy the stories and poems and join in the conversation whilst other members come and go as they feel well enough or able to engage. During the week, the group had a story about two brothers, identical twins living on a farm. The residents shared their memories of well mended sheets and socks and baking bread and scones which was contrasted with the smells of lavender and mothballs. In the story there were several great master paintings including Holman Hunt’s Light of the World and this was shared as an image.
“The Self-Unseeing by Thomas Hardy helped us to reflect on how we remember significant people in our lives. In the poem, we see that by thinking about where they sat or where they lived can help us recall people who are special to us. This helped residents to remember how their mothers and fathers too had favourite seats by the fire or the range. One resident ended by saying how much she looks forward to the session every week and often shares the story and poem with her brother who comes to visit.”
“The literature for Reading Rooms used in our partner care homes is picked in line with the ‘Senses Framework’ as defined by researcher Mike Nolan. It aims to improve care for older people through a relationship-centered approach, emphasising the importance of giving people a sense of security, belonging, continuity, purpose, achievement and of being valued. Considering these factors, we combine a broad range of short stories, folk tales and poems, both contemporary and classic.
“Poetry once memorised in school is also a big hit, and we’ve had numerous spontaneous recitals of classics such as William Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’, W.B. Yeats’ ‘The Song of Wandering Aengus’, or Robert Frost’s ‘The Road Not Taken’. In parallel, we have read contemporary poems such as Mary Oliver’s ‘Messenger’, Benjamin Zephaniah’s ‘People need People’ or Grace Nichols’ ‘Give Yourself a Hug’, all receiving powerful feedback regarding the sensory layers in these texts. When it comes to prose, Tove Jansson’s Summer Book is still one of our all time favourites, but the folk tales in Barefoot Books’ wonderful Tales of Wisdom and Wonder, edited by Hugh Lupton, are just as popular with our dementia groups.”