Category Archives: Guest Blogs

Guest blog: A dementia-friendly theatre performance

Nicky Taylor, Community Development Manager at West Yorkshire Playhouse and Dementia Friends Champion, tells us about the dementia-friendly performance they recently ran at the Leeds theatre.

Going to the theatre is an experience many of us look forward to. In my role as Community Development Manager at West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds I have seen the profound impact a visit to the theatre can have on people living with dementia and their families. For the past 5 years I’ve been leading creative activities for people with a diagnosis of dementia and through these participatory projects I have supported many people living with dementia to see theatre shows. Starting with preparatory themed workshops, we also explore the set and costumes and meet the actors, to enhance their theatre experience.

A pre-show singing session where attendees learnt songs from the musical together. Those attending the dementia-friendly performance were encouraged to sing along during the show if they wished.

The positive responses I noticed in terms of concentration, communication, creative expression and laughter convinced me that a dementia-friendly performance was the natural next step. In early 2014 at West Yorkshire Playhouse, we started to explore what a performance of this nature might entail, consulting with people living with dementia and those who support them. How might individual experiences of dementia challenge us to re-think sound and lighting cues, or the actors’ performances? What is it like to arrive at our venue if you have issues with visuospatial perception? How could we make adaptations to support people who find it difficult to be in a busy environment? And how could we convince people to leave the house if they haven’t attempted to in months?

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Guest Blog – Creating a dementia friendly Chichester

Dementia Friends badges

Dementia Friends show off their badges

I am happy to say we have made a huge impact starting with our own staff, gaining more confidence & transferring the skills for public sessions. We have successfully completed 5 Dementia Friends information sessions in the last two months. To make it more fun, at the end of each session we encourage attendees to pen down thoughts they want to action & have a quick discussion on those. It has led to very interesting results from Volunteering interest with Alzheimer’s to fundraising and including further Dementia Friends Champions across our sister care homes.

Some of the discussion has also highlighted some of the preconceived notions about abilities & skills relating to people affected by Dementia. I think as a facilitator it has been fantastic to get these conversations or discussions going.

We are a team of 50 working in a care home setting & as part of Anchor Trust we are great with our personalized care & living well with dementia is our motto.  I find these Dementia Friend’s sessions closing the community gap, giving shape to one structure & meaning to straightforward dementia awareness sessions across the board.  Like one of our attendees who is a local councillor rightly said she found them ‘simple & people friendly’ & almost everyone loves the ‘who’s right’ activity & it really gets every one talking. We make sure we have it on all our sessions.

We still have a long way to go & lots of more sessions to hold with the same excitement & zeal. We hope to reach out to local shops, supermarkets, taxi companies & our local colleges. It feels great to be part of the revolution & making positive noise about dementia. It’s a stupendous effort as a community to be personally accountable & we are in awe of the courage shared by our groups with their stories & personal experiences.

Our latest victory has been to tie up with Napa challenge & we are holding our 6th dementia friend’s session at our home.  We have challenged ourselves to hold it for a unique group of attendees from varied backgrounds, varying from taxi companies to police constables & win the challenge for our home.

Our next Dementia Friends information session is running on 25 September in Chichester. The session starts at 11am, please come along and help to create a dementia friendly Chichester. 

Augusta Court Dementia Friends Champions – Simanti Nandi, Sue Townend , Sharon Grobelaar & Deirdre Johnson.

Guest Blog: My Dementia Awareness Week by Adam Hayward

 

Adam Hayward Image

“Can you write a blog for us Adam?” they said.  “About how Dementia Awareness week went and how I ran my Dementia Friends Sessions?”, “Yeah, no problem!” was my immediate response on the telephone.  Then I turned to my wife, George, “So, what’s a ‘blog’?”

I have been a nurse for 8 years now, mainly looking after older people in hospital settings.  Somewhere between Christmas and New Year I decide that I was going to say “yes” to as many opportunities that came my way and see where life took me.  Not so much a New Years resolution, more a personal experiment in positive thinking.

One such opportunity arose during a meeting in Nottingham with the Dementia Action Alliance.  It was mid April and Dementia Awareness Week was rapidly approaching.  I realised the potential that the Dementia Friends programme has for raising awareness and making dementia friendly communities a reality.  My grand idea was to deliver short sessions during work breaks, with a light, interesting but enjoyable approach to as many people as I could.

First I had to become a Dementia Friends Champion, something I achieved one showery Friday in Milton Keynes Library.  It was a great day that filled me with ideas about what to do next.  I decided that the best way to sign up as many people as possible to the Dementia Friends programme would be to book a room within my hospitals education centre and advertise the sessions as soon as possible.  I booked two rooms on each day for the whole week (ten sessions in total) and advertised the sessions via the Dementia Friends website and on my works bulletin board.  Not really expecting much response, I got on with ‘business as usual’ and half forgot about it.

The week before Dementia Awareness week, I practiced my Dementia Friends session on George and my sister, Ann.  We all stood around a laptop in our kitchen, stirred dinner, drank a beer, drew some pictures of a penny and talked about dementia.  After 30 minutes, dinner was ready, and I had signed up my first two Dementia Friends!

Monday

I’ve never really been a fan of Monday, even less so lately.  Our two boys, Thomas (5) and Nathan (2), insist on waking at 5:30 for their daily monster hunt around our bedroom before charging downstairs to continue their 120 decibel demolition derby.  At least I have no need for an alarm clock anymore!  After the breakfast club and nursery drop off, it was a cup of tea on the run before meetings and a look at my overfull voicemail and email inboxes. By far, the highlight of my working day was the Dementia Friends sessions!  Informal and chatty, both sessions over-ran the allotted 35 minutes, but it was great to see people discussing dementia and what it means to them.  Mainly attended by staff from the hospital, it was also nice to see a group of volunteers.  I really enjoyed dishing out the badges, though working during my breaks left no room for lunch!  This was rectified with a sausage and mash mountain for tea. 

Tuesday

The breakfast club and nursery run again, then a full days work. I’d decided to include a short video in the sessions.  I found myself needing something to break up the session a little, especially if the group was quiet.  I used a video I found on the Alzheimer’s Society YouTube account (the one with Fiona Philips) and it worked well (it also gave me a couple of minutes to eat some lunch).  The sessions were better attended than I anticipated, I even had to find a couple of extra chairs!  A small group of local solicitors came to the session in the afternoon.

Wednesday

By far the busiest day of the week.  The sessions were great and I felt much more confident in my delivery.  A few more solicitors attended, though I’m not sure what they made of it all (they were a bit quiet).  I introduced the ‘who is right’ game into the sessions to get people moving, most people are keen, though a few didn’t like the idea of leaving their seats and walking about.

Thursday

After two well attended sessions I signed up my boys to be dementia friends.  Their pledge is to visit their Great Grandmother more often as her dementia disappears when sings and plays with them at her care home.  Thursday was finished off with an evening sat in front of the computer, putting the finishing touches to an assignment for my degree module.  I was glad to see my bed that night!

Friday

The morning session was well attended.  A group of physiotherapists came, though they were a little shy.  The afternoon session had only a few people turn up.  It was by far the longest session, running over by nearly 45 minutes.  The discussions were interesting, emotional and funny.  I was proud to be signing up such committed, selfless people to be Dementia Friends.  If these people are the foundation of our dementia friendly communities, we are on our way to making real change for people living with dementia!

In a nutshell, that was my dementia awareness week.  I’m planning to deliver more sessions in the near future, though I’ll space them out a little more.  I have the local Women’s Institute booked in for October, and I am doing a session at our annual family barbeque in August (let’s hope the sun shines!).  I am also finalising a British Sign Language interpreted Dementia Friends session to deliver to the deaf community in the midlands in the next few weeks.