Writer Nichola Charalambou ran one poetry workshop at MindCare Dementia Support Centre and the second workshop at St. Edmund’s Church Hall Dementia Café.
At MindCare Dementia Support Centre in Beckenham, Nichola ran an intimate poetry group with people living with dementia who attend the centre to take part in activities with other people.
Poems included ‘It Was Long Ago’ by Eleanor Farjeon, a British poet and children’s author, who wrote at the time of WW1, where she remembers summer time in her early childhood. Other poem topics included Saturday Night Dance and The Diamond Jubilee.
The groups eagerly chatted about childhood memories of long summer holidays, young adulthood relationships and romances and memories of the Queen and the Royal family.
In the afternoon, St. Edmund’s Church Hall in Beckenham, hosted a poetry dementia café attended by 40 people. In addition to reading and sharing thoughts on poems chosen by Nichola, people with dementia and their carers shared their own poems that they had written about the joys and mysteries of life, caring and loved ones lost to dementia. Some carers also shared published poems from their family members.
Jacqui Cross (pictured below), who cares for her husband who has dementia, shared poems she had written about her experience:
The Thief In Our House
There’s a thief in our house, he’s not after our wealth.
He’s creeping about with incredulous stealth.
Little by little he’s making his play
What part of my husband will vanish today?
He’s feasting on brain cells, he steals some each day
But where does he take them no person can say.
They just disappear with astonishing speed
No care for the victim, no care for his need.
The memories are fading like evening light,
But sometime that evening will turn into night.
No sweet recollections of happier days
But still distant thoughts of the old childhood ways.
I wash him, I feed him, his skills are long gone.
I spend sleepless nights and sit with him ‘til dawn.
He still is my darling and come what may
That dastardly thief cannot take that away.
This thief has a name, it’s really quite chilling,
His victims are random and they never are willing.
He’ll do all he can just to make your life hard
But he’s not a thief to just chuck into the yard!
He’ll linger and wait ever watching his bait,
What bit shall I pilfer today?
But however he’s cursed, he will show you his worst
This Dementia just won’t go away.
Speaking about the benefits of such events for dementia carers, Jacqui said,
“Not many people understand dementia and what caring involves if they have no personal experience. I care for my husband 24/7 and it is a wonderful break for me to come to dementia cafés like this, with other people who have similar caring experiences and who understand. I am very grateful for the chance to share poetry that has helped me in caring for my husband.”
National Memory Day was established by a partnership comprising literature development charity Literature Works, The University of Plymouth, The Poetry Archive and the Alzheimer’s Society. Its aim is to promote the importance of poetry as a therapy for memory loss, raising funds to enable practicing poets to deliver poetry workshops in Memory Cafés whilst at the same time helping to generate further public awareness of the condition of dementia.
Heather Soderlind of Literature Works said,
“This year was the first year the partnership commemorated National Memory Day and we were delighted that we were able to support Bromley Dementia Support Hub to stage such clearly successful and well attended events.”