The idea is a simple, yet powerful, one.
It involves collecting together lots of photographs from the person's past, encouraging them to reminisce and talk about their life, and then recording all these memories together in a home-made book.
While dementia often diminishes short-term memories, memories from further back in the past are often stronger, so given encouragement and stimulation, it is often surprising how responsive and engaged people can become. The emphasis of course is on what they can remember, rather than what they can't, and the positive feelings this evokes can really help boost self-esteem in the person with dementia and brighten the mood of everyone involved.
The video below produced by the Dementia Services Development Centre team at the University of Stirling, shows a fantastic example of just how much can be gained through the making of a Life Memories book. The project has clearly been a hugely enjoyable one for both Ann and her Mother, Mary. As they look through the book they have made together, the bond they share through reliving Mary's memories is heartwarming to see.
Once made, the book can be referred to over and over again to stimulate memories, and encourage interaction. It can help future carers get to know the person as an individual, and ultimately it is likely to become an heirloom to be passed down to future generations.
To find out more about how to go about making a Life Memories Book, the Alzheimer's Society have produced an excellent 4 page guide which contains all the information you need to get started. Download it from their website by clicking on the link button here:
Keeping the mind sharp and the body active have to be the key goals for all of us as we get older. But with the press reporting on what seems like an endless stream of studies and reports that extol the virtues of one particular form of activity or therapy over another, it can become all too easy to get swept up in the hype.
So, is one activity better than others at warding off the symptoms of dementia ?
Should we be prioritising mental stimulation over physical exercise?
Or is physical fitness more beneficial than the mental challenge of problem-solving puzzles?
The answer is a resounding NO according to a research study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Mental AND physical exercise prove equally valuable in the quest to keep thinking skills in, and dementia out.
In the American study, 126 seniors were divided into groups with each group embarking on a programme of either computer activities, aerobics, watching educational DVDs or stretching exercises. At the end of the 12 week trial, the participants from all groups demonstrated improved thinking scores.
What surprised researchers was the lack of any real difference in improvement between groups. When it comes to stimulating the brain, it appears that it is not the type of activity that matters, but the amount of it.
This research reinforces numerous studies, conducted in both the US and UK, that have demonstrated the benefits of both mental and physical exercise on brain function.
Evidence suggests that older people who take physical exercise regularly display less brain shrinkage and brain lesions which can indicate dementia. It’s therefore likely that physical activity, by stimulating the production of blood vessels and new brain cells, increases the volume of the parts of the brain responsible for memory and thinking.
Similarly, activities that provide mental stimulation such as crosswords, playing chess, reading the newspaper, participating in clubs and pursuing hobbies also improve cognitive health as people age.
As a result most health experts now agree that a common sense approach of maintaining a balance of both mental and physical activity is the best way forward, recommending aiming for two and a half hours each week of moderate intensity exercise combined with mental exercises to stay sharp.
A diagnosis of dementia can feel like the end of life as you know it. But it needn’t.
Although the news is just as shocking for family and friends as it is for the person diagnosed, it’s important for everyone to remember that it is possible to live, and LIVE WELL with dementia for many years.
The key to coming to terms with the range of emotions you’ll be experiencing is to arm yourself with as much information as possible. As Nina Balackova – an inspirational Czech lady who spoke about her own experiences of dementia at the Alzheimer Europe Conference in 2013 – said “You can’t choose what you feel, but you can choose what you do with it.”
The amount of information and support available is growing all the time so here are our suggestions for some helpful places to find reliable and easy to digest information and advice. The list is by no means exhaustive, but it will hopefully give you some valuable starting points.
The Alzheimer’s Society www.alzheimers.org.uk is an obvious place to begin, whether you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or one of the many other forms of dementia.
Particularly helpful sections on their website are:
– Factsheets which provide detailed information on an enormous range of subjects and lists of where to gain further information and support.
– Online Forum which gives you access to a safe online community where you can ask questions, share your experiences with others in a similar position, and receive advice and support 24 hours a day.
– Local Information about services and support groups in your area.
– E-Newsletters which you can subscribe to for free to keep you updated with the latest news and information.
– Alzheimer’s Society YouTube channel where you can watch video clips of real people sharing their personal experiences.
“DEMENTIA : The One Stop Guide” is a recently published book by Professor June Andrews, with the aim of providing practical advice for families, professionals and people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. (Published by Profile Books, February 2015)
Professor Andrews is Director of the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) at the University of Stirling where she has gained a well-deserved international reputation for her work to improve the lives of those affected by dementia.
Her sensible, no nonsense and easy to relate to approach in this book makes it a truly valuable read. It is well laid out so you can dip in and out of the chapters you find most relevant, and she answers the most pressing questions you’re likely to have without bogging you down in jargon or unnecessary detail.
Chapters include: How to keep dementia at bay, Managing care at home, Disturbing behaviours, Your dementia-friendly home, What you should expect from the social care system, and many more.
I must point out that we have no commercial interest in this publication, but recommend it simply because of the quality, reliability and up to date information it provides. It’s a truly helpful read in our opinion and is worth every penny. It can be purchased from Amazon by clicking on the image below or DSDC’s own online bookshop at www.dementiashop.co.uk
NHS Choices – Care and support guide www.nhs.uk/conditions/social-care-and-support-guide/Pages/what-is-social-care.aspx
This is a valuable resource providing information for carers on a whole range of issues including how to fund care, benefits that may be available to you, how to get a carer’s assessment, how to access breaks and respite care etc.
Your local GP surgery will be able to advise you on services and support groups available in your locality. Services do vary from area to area but help from a range of professionals may be available, such as Occupational therapy, specialist dementia nurses (Admiral nursing teams), or Social Care teams, and your GP will be able to help make the necessary referrals.
We hope these suggestions prove a useful starting point for you. As one contributor to the online forum at the Alzheimer’s Society put it, “this is a road that nobody chooses to go down, but the more educated you are on what’s happening, the more accepting you are of what’s going on”. Try not to let anxiety about what may happen in the future dominate your thoughts. Take things one step at a time and keep your focus on managing the present.
In future emails we’ll endeavour to focus in on particular aspects of care that may prove helpful to you.
As always, if there is something specific you want to know please reply to this e-mail with your question and we’ll be delighted to help.
The Team at Dementia Care Swindon
Music has the ability to capture emotion and stimulate the brain like few other mediums. And because the part of the brain that governs our response to music is one of the last to be affected by dementia, the power of music and song to help those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can be profound.
Singing for the brain is an initiative run by the Alzheimer's Society based on the principles of music therapy. The aim is to bring people with dementia and their carers together to sing in a fun, friendly and stimulating environment where they can express themselves and socialise with others in a supportive group.
In the video clip below, Chreanne Montgomery-Smith,one of the founders of Singing for the Brain, explains more about how the sessions are run, while several participants talk about the enjoyment and feeling of wellbeing they experience from attending the sessions.
If you fancy giving it a go, there are 3 local Singing for the brain groups in Swindon and the surrounding area.
Details are below, but for up-to-date information on the dates and times of the sessions, contact the Alzheimer's Society - contact telephone01249 443469 (Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm.) contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Singing for the Brain Swindon
St Andrews Church Centre, Raleigh Avenue, Walcot, Swindon SN3 3DZ
Singing for the Brain Swindon Freshbrook
Freshbrook Community Centre, Village Centre, Freshbrook, Swindon SN5 8LY
Singing for the Brain Malmesbury
The Actiity Zone Leisure Centre, Bremilham Road, Malmesbury SN16 0DQ