Bromley dementia services celebrated National Memory Day on Thursday 18th May during Dementia Awareness Week 2017, with poetry events for people with dementia and their carers.
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.
Jacqui reads her poems about caring for her husband with dementia
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.”
On Saturday 20th May, artists, scientists, researchers, people with dementia and their carers came together to explore the brain through art, at a London Brain Project ‘Beyond Memories’ workshop, held at Age Concern, Saxon Day Centre in Orpington during Dementia Awareness Week 2017.
Four artists led groups through different art activities to explore personal identity and the brain.
Home, Memories and Identity
Artist, Nicole Morris, led a group considered their ideas of a perfect home, sketching out ideas and thoughts and later combining these in a collaborative print of this imagined house.
Amongst discussion about the necessary features of this perfect home, people with dementia began to share personal memories and stories from their lives about the homes they lived in. Even when more recent memories were hazy, the older memories were still quite vivid for many people and they took great delight in recalling and sharing stories from earlier in their lives. Such memories play a central role in a person’s sense of personal identity, and this kind of activity can contribute hugely to the wellbeing of someone experiencing memory loss or dementia.
One lady shared memories of dancing late into the night at big parties in the barn attached to her Italian family home. For another keen cook, the kitchen was the most important part of the home, providing a place for cooking and eating together.
Abstract Art and Memory
Artist, Sophie Michael, led another group in the creation of abstract traces of themselves using objects found about their person. As these objects were laid on photosensitive paper, the colour pigment of uncovered areas was gradually degraded by the sunlight, leaving silhouettes of the objects that had once been there. Undergoing further processing, the images became increasingly abstract, with the occasional identifiable feature amongst more roughly defined shapes and patterns.
Laura Marsh, Research Assistant at the Department of Psychological Medicine, King’s College London, attended the workshop, and said,
“I was struck by the way this process reflected the way memory traces continually change over time, interacting with our current selves and becoming looser and more abstract in form, yet remaining rooted in our past experiences and interpretations of reality.”
Crafts and Symbols as Expressions of the Dementia Experience
Artist, Natasha Cossey, and her group used coloured felt symbols and shapes to represent various aspects of experiences of and feelings towards dementia. The shape of a hand, for example, was cut out of pink felt, to reflect the value and importance of touch and gesture.
One couple chose a chain of roses to reflect their journey through dementia, with periods of angst and disturbance interspersed with periods of tranquillity and calm. Later, these shapes were brought together in a wall hanging, with several threads representing different life stories and intertwining experiences.
Virtual Reality and Creativity
Artist, Kim Leigh Pontin, explored Virtual Reality (VR) with a gentleman with dementia, David, and his wife and carer, Rachel along with neuroscientist, Francesca Cacucci. Using VR, David to painted in 3D, using prompts such as a favourite song to inspire his mark-making. The results were fascinating, from both an artistic and scientific perspective.
Reflecting on his intricate design, reminiscent of some sort of intricate oriental lettering glowing before him in virtual space, David remarked,
“I wasn’t thinking, I was just creating… it wasn’t me making it beautiful, it just happened.”
Scientists specialising in biochemical and molecular neuroscience, clinical and social research, shared the latest cutting edge research in relation to dementia, and engaged in discussions, with people with various forms of dementia and their carers.
There was an overriding consensus that there is a major lack of public awareness of the many different types of dementia, and the range of ways people can be affected.
Dementia Isn’t Just About Memory
Commonly considered to be purely a disease affecting memory, many people were surprised to hear of types of dementia, such as posterior cortical atrophy, which primarily affects vision. The brain degeneration that can affect memory in the most common types of dementia can also affect other areas of the brain, and can affect a person’s spatial awareness, language and ability to control their behaviour.
Dementia Friendly Design of Spaces
Emma Harding and Dilek Ocal shared how they are working on ways both public and private spaces can be better designed to support people with dementia. Different coloured walls and interior features can help people with dementia find their way around more easily.
Another exciting project is looking at ways in which the different coping techniques that people with dementia and their carers use to manage their symptoms could be shared amongst others.
Prevention and Treatment of Dementia
There was encouraging news from scientists working on discovering new ways to prevent and treat dementia.
Chris Lovejoy described his PhD project in which he is using stem cells to grow new neurons, which he can then use to study the changes that occur in familial Alzheimer’s disease.
Francesca Cacucci told of an exciting new way to test potential drugs by examining the effects of these compounds on hippocampal place cells, the brain cells responsible for spatial navigation.
Magdalena Sastre shared her work on the role of inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease, whilst neurologist Paresh Malhotra encouraged everyone with his anticipation of new and effective treatments for dementias within the next ten years or so.
Living in a society in which we are all likely to be affected by dementia, people attending the Beyond Memory workshop talked honestly and openly about a disease that is so often brushed under the carpet.
At the conclusion event, Laura Marsh, from the Department of Psychological Medicine at King’s College London, added,
“It was a privilege to hear people talk about their experiences so openly, and exciting to hear about the new approaches and developments in the field.
Over the course of the afternoon, it was increasingly apparent that there is immense hope to be offered through the exciting work of so many, whether focusing on improving quality of life for those with dementia, or looking at preventing, slowing and treating neurodegenerative disease [dementia].
The role of creativity in exploring and communicating experience was also highlighted.
It was a pleasure to be part of such a stimulating event, and I am very much looking forward to seeing the finished artworks displayed in the exhibition later this year.”
As part of Dementia Awareness Week 2017, Bromley Central Library hosted a dementia friendly film screening of Bromley’s social history on Wednesday 17th May.
Film London London’s Screen Archives specially curated clips of archive films that travel through various themes that were designed to inspire reminiscence, highlighting the social history of Bromley, as well as key national events of the 20th century. As well as changes in social history, these clips also featured childhood prominently, with images of youngsters in prams, walking harnesses and fair rides. The screening ended with people sharing stories and conversation about cheerful memories at retro themed chocolate bar.
32 people, including people with dementia and their carers, enjoyed the event, with comments including:
“It’s really interesting to know that these films by ordinary people are being preserved. I had no idea.”
“I’d love to watch the footage again to see what bus numbers were in the clips and see if they are still running. My dad used to drive a bus and it might be his route.”
“I found the London’s Screen Archives at Bromley Central Library both enjoyable and informative. It was lovely to reminisce over the film clips which reminded us so much of days gone by.”
Sarah Gogan, Library Supervisor at Bromley Libraries, said, “When I saw the Boy’s Brigade film clips I remembered watching them from my window as they marched by playing their instruments every month. It took me back to my childhood house and sparked some lovely memories of my grandparents, who are sadly no longer with us. This was a memory I had completely forgotten and was a joy to recall. I hope there is someone like Storm travelling around and offering these events when I am older.”
Ciji Varughese, Community Learning and Outreach Assistant at London Borough of Bromley, said, “[The] film screening session was a wonderful experience. It showed me glimpses of a Britain that I have not witnessed before as I grew up in India and only came to the UK when I was twenty. It was lovely to see everyday activities done by ordinary people celebrated in such a lovely manner. It felt relaxed and informal as we were able to chat as we saw the pictures and there was a real sense of community as we laughed at funny moustaches and calamities with deckchairs! It was very refreshing.”
For Bromley Dementia Awareness Week 2017, an Afternoon Tea Hamper was up for grabs in a free raffle, open to the public visiting Tesco Orpington and Bromley High Street Market Stalls on 16th and 20th May.
Our lucky winner (photographed but who wishes not be named), collected the Afternoon Tea Hamper from Community House, in South Street, Bromley on Wednesday 24th May. The prize was presented by Mark Ellison, Chief Executive of Age UK Bromley & Greenwich.
Nikki Fishman, Community Development Worker at the Bromley Dementia Support Hub, said, “It was lovely to call the winner and give them the good news. She was delighted and surprised at winning.”
A big thank you to the Coop, MindCare Dementia Support, CWJ Solicitors and MyTime Active for donating food, drink and vouchers for the Dementia Awareness Week 2017 hamper.
Bromley Dementia Awareness Week 2017 news.
During Bromley Dementia Awareness Week 2017, we are pleased to be offering a free raffle for one lucky person to win an Afternoon Tea Hamper. The Hamper includes food and drink for an Afternoon Tea, kindly donated by Coop and MindCare Dementia Support (part of Bromley & Lewisham Mind).
The Afternoon Tea Hamper winner will also receive a voucher for a free will courtesy of CWJ Solicitors in Orpington and a voucher for a 6 week course of golf lessons at MyTime Active in Bromley.
You can claim your free raffle tickets from dementia information stalls in Tesco Orpington on Tuesday 16th May and from our Dementia Awareness Week stall at Bromley High Street Market stalls on Friday 19th May.
Dementia Awareness Week 2017 events in Bromley
The Odeon cinema in Orpington will be hosting one of the first dementia friendly film screenings to be held in the country in Odeon Cinemas as part of Dementia Awareness Week 2017.
Odeon in Orpington will be running a special screening especially for people with dementia and their carers, showing the 2008 hit film, Mamma Mia, at 11.30am on Tuesday 16th May. Sponsored by Orpington 1st, there will be free tea, coffee and biscuits before the screening, with tickets available on the day at a reduced price of £3 and carers go free.
To make the film screening dementia friendly, the lights will be kept on at a low level during the film and the sound will be lower than usual. There will be no trailers or adverts before the film. There will be a 15 minute interval and allowance for more movement and noise than usual during the film.
This is a great opportunity for people with dementia and their carers to spend some time together and create new memories together.
Be sure to also pop along to Tesco Orpington on the same day, to find out about local dementia support services.