Last week at work I held 3 Dementia Friends sessions for the team at work. When people don’t ‘volunteer’ to attend, it’s always hard to know how engaged they will be. If you sign up for something it’s usually because you’re interested in the subject whereas being given a time to attend a session is a different kettle of fish……
As usual, I had to meticulously plan the session, reading and re reading my notes the night before. I organised the sessions so there was a mixed age group in each, from 20’s to 50’s.
I thought this would enable to younger ones to feel comfortable and I needed the older ones there to explain what ‘Bingo’ was……. Although we did seem to have a maverick 20 something who surprisingly seemed more aux fait than the rest!
I think the Bingo activity is a great way to get everyone started and engaged at the beginning. Some who may have thought ‘Oh no, Bingo!’ was soon in the swing of it as we were playing for choccies……always a good move…..
The section that surprised each group was the bookcase analogy. I think all of them thought at the beginning that dementia was simply about loss of memory. The idea that emotions remain in place hadn’t occurred to people. It generated lots of conversation in each group. We spoke about those who stop visiting those with dementia as they simply think they don’t recognise them, so what’s the point. The Bletchley Park enigma story really opened eyes and created many light bulb moments around the group. At the end they understood the comfort and happy feelings it can bring to someone just by being there and holding their hand even if they can’t remember who you are.
Some shared their own experiences. One quite common topic to be raised was how to react when people with dementia believe they’re living in a different era. The whistle kettle story provided more light bulb moments. More difficult is what to say to people who believe someone who died long ago is still alive. I told them what I would like my daughters to do in this case. If for example you believe you’re living in the 1950’s, what does it matter that you’re not? If I say ‘I’m waiting for Flossy to arrive’, and Flossy has been dead for 5 years, what does it matter if you simply say, ‘are you, shall I wait with you?’. It’s better to say that than to keep reminding me that Flossy is dead. After all each time you tell me she’s dead will be like the first time for me and so I will mourn and feel sad time and time again. If you simply acknowledge what I’m doing, I’m oblivious and will forget that I’m waiting for her anyway and be more content.
From the comments given by all the team I think that each and every one of them learnt something from the session which makes me very happy.
For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about and would like to know more, then why don’t you sign up for a Dementia Friends session in your area? It’s free, and only lasts 45 – 60 minutes. I think you would have your eyes opened just as much as those who attended my sessions. I’ll happily offer my services to any group who would like me to run a session.
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