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Sessions to provide a vital boost for precious memories
6:11pm Monday 30th July 2012 in Behind the News
Experiencing memory problems is generally accepted as a sign of growing older, and is often made light of with the term “senior moment”.
But to many people, struggling with memory difficulties, or being diagnosed with early onset dementia, can leave them feeling isolated, confused and frightened.
Taking Time – a voluntary group set up to enhance the lives of older people through reminiscence and creative work – has secured £10,000 in Awards For All lottery funding for a new project called MemoryWise.
The ten-week course is for people diagnosed with memory difficulties over the past year, and a family member or friend who supports them. Participants will have chance to reminisce and celebrate their life stories, while also receiving information and advice about how to live well with a memory difficulty.
The project is run by Jane Dale, a facilitator of reminiscence projects, and Dr Elizabeth Milwain, a psychologist specialising in memory loss.
“Often when people get diagnosed they feel very alone. Reminiscence reinforces a feeling of self-worth,” says Jane. “Using objects from the past, photographs and music can trigger memories and boost confidence. The sessions will be relaxed and informal – reminiscence projects can generate laughter and fun.
- Jane DaleOften when people get diagnosed with memory problems they feel very alone. Using objects from the past, photographs and music can trigger memories and boost their confidence
“By celebrating life stories, we help people realise they are still valued human beings. Carers of people with dementia often feel the person they knew is fading. They’ll say, ‘I wish you’d known him/her before they had dementia’ – but that person is still there.
“It’s great that the National Lottery has recognised the value of our work with people with memory difficulties and their carers. This project is a good opportunity for people who’ve had a recent diagnosis and their carers to get together and talk about their concerns and get some advice, while sharing memories and having fun.”
While the project is aimed at providing group support, there will also be opportunities for relatives to discuss concerns about the prospect of becoming carers.
“They’ll be able to see Elizabeth (Dr Milwain) separately to talk about coping strategies,” says Jane. “This involves going with the flow of the person with memory difficulties – if they keep being corrected their confidence plummets.
“Elizabeth will talk about the brain and how it functions, and why people with memory loss might get distressed. The challenges faced by someone with a memory difficulty and the person supporting them are often very different. Time apart allows people to explore specific issues they’re facing, and time together allows for everyone to share and listen to each another.”
She adds: “To live well with a memory problem it’s important to ask questions and meet others in a similar situation. MemoryWise meets these needs with fun, friendly sessions combining expert advice with a chance to share memories and make new friends.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, 800,000 people are currently living with dementia in the UK.
“Dementia, and other forms of memory impairment, are affecting more and more people living in our communities. These conditions have historically been associated with stigma and ‘invisibility’, causing people to lose confidence and drop out of community life,” says Jane.
“As the older section of society increases, this situation is now being picked up by the Government as a major health issue. The Prime Minister has issued a challenge asking us all to be more aware of how we can improve support for people with memory impairments so they can stay confident and remain active and valued within our communities.
“Organisations across Bradford are stepping up to the challenge, led by the Alzheimer’s Society’s campaign to make Bradford one of the first cities in the UK to be formally recognised as dementia friendly.”
Funding has been secured to run MemoryWise twice over the coming year. The first will run in Shipley , starting next month, and the second project will be held early next year.
Reminiscence sessions will be planned around different themes. “We’ll recreate a wedding scene in one session – that usually triggers a lot of memories,” says Jane.
The Bradford branch of the Alzheimer’s Society has sent letters about the project to some of its users, but spaces are still available.
“We hope that once the ten weeks is up there will be a support group in place to continue,” says Jane. “We can refer people to other agencies, like the Alzheimer’s Society, for further help if needed.”
- MemoryWise will run on Wednesdays, from 10.30am to 12.30pm, starting on August 29. The project is free and includes refreshments. For more information, or to book a place, ring Jane Dale on (01274) 560907 or Dr Elizabeth MIlwain on (01274) 583364.