Heard a really interesting programme on Radio 4 yesterday about memory and dementia and tools which can be used to help maintain memories when old age beckons: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0367slj/Its_My_Story_Living_in_the_Memory_Room/
The programme looks at the huge number (800,000) of dementia sufferers in the UK. Kim Normanton presents a personal programme about memory and dementia, inspired by her mother’s illness. She explores a new approach to treatment – recreating the past.
As her mother’s memory of recent events was destroyed, Kim discovered that she could only reach her by entering the past. She began sharing memories of her mother’s childhood with theatrical props: “She can’t reach where I’m living anymore, so it’s up to me to go back to happier days in the past and reach her.”
This approach to dementia is tried on a much larger scale in Hogewey Dementia Village in Holland. The village recreates the surroundings of the residents’ youth, with old-fashioned furnishings and even a supermarket selling old-fashioned sweets. Kim talks to the director about ethical issues: is it right to deceive people with this theatrical illusion?
In Britain, she finds care homes increasingly using ‘reminiscence objects’ to stimulate dementia sufferers. Kim visits a Cornwall home where Janet Brown, known locally as ‘the Memory Lady’, organizes group memory sessions using old toys and kitchen utensils plucked from a memory box. She says, “It’s a horrible disease and there’s no cure, but there are moments which we can make more pleasurable for those living with it, and their carers.”
Kim explores the latest memory science with Dr Catherine Loveday of the University of Westminster: “The biggest problem with dementia is a lack of narrative – being suspended in space without the context of memories to support you. But I’ve seen people with dementia who are very happy. When you’re reminiscing, you really are in that world and enjoying that moment.”
This is exactly why Strike a Light works in these areas, so that through our activities, we can continue to help support people with waning memories, but who can still remember the past clearly.
See more information about our bespoke reminscence activities below:
Photo courtesy of WRVS Heritage Plus project 2008