There is growing awareness but sadly no cure’s in sight. In-fact cure wise, nothing major has happened for 15 years.
Prevention and self-help advice comes thick and fast and there is a growing determination to create a dementia-friendly UK, where people with dementia are included and family members are supported.
We chose a craft activity for Dementia Action week 2018 (May 21st to May 27th) because it’s one of the services we are very proud of.
#DAW18 is about small actions that, hopefully, will help to make a huge difference and we decided to get involved this year by making hand crafted forget-me-nots, the symbol of Dementia.
Carers matter very much to people living with dementia. One of our amazing carers is Pat and she took charge of making the forget-me-nots as a project with our clients.
Most of the carers at Seniors Helping Seniors are a bit like Pat and here’s more about her. Pat is in her sixties, she took redundancy from Bank of America. She is an independent woman and an avid crafter.
Pat is one of six children. She’s one of life’s givers and she has developed deep care experience. Pat is an active member of the women’s institute, she is part of the Herne Bay cosy crew and famously she knits post box toppers. She independently made an Easter Post-box Topper for a local shop for their charity Prostate Cancer.
Pat is a mother, and a busy supportive grandmother but when we put a call out for someone with knitting skills locally, she came forward for interview and she works 3 hours a week or so knitting with a few of our clients every week.
We came up with the idea of knitting forget-me-nots to make into broaches as a lovely memento of all those living with dementia.
When we meet clients for the first time, we take in as much information as possible from friends and family. We frequently find that people lose their interest in crafting and the activities they loved.
We also know clients can be helped back into the things they loved with special skills and understanding by lovely people like Pat.
Since the clients we matched to Pat were introduced to her, they spend a few hours twice a week laughing and enjoying themselves. In these cases, Pat’s services are taken in addition to morning and evening visits from other care companies who wash, dress, and deliver food twice a day.
Sometimes they get a little bit of knitting or crafting done when Pat visits. Sometimes the clients are only up to holding the wool while Pat knits, but that’s fine. She always makes a cup of tea and they have lovely chats.
Importantly families gain peace of mind from the regular visits from the same person.
Pat replaces food if it’s not been eaten (burnt toast and cold tinned soup is not very appetising) and she is full of ideas for tasty lunches to share. They make personalised cards for family members, “just like they used to receive from mum”
Our clients say they feel comfortable because Pat is in her sixties, close enough in age to understand the niceties of a pretty serviette, to know what film to leave on the telly when she leaves, why the biggest wish for this Saturday is that Prince Harry has shaved off his beard and wears a smart uniform. She also knows the power of shared memories which are always interesting.
Pat has managed to fit the appointments into her week on a regular basis and she looks forward to her visits with her ladies. She’s sourced small needles that arthritic hands can manage and she arrives “casted on” and with newspapers and magazines as back up.
Pat says her clients are of a similar age her mum was when she died, so being with these ladies and having a giggle feels lovely for her and she enjoys being so useful.
Pat donated extra time and all the wool for the Dementia Awareness week forget-me-nots which was very generous. She was not looking for a job when she found Seniors Helping Seniors but she loves the flexible work and the team. The regular money affords her a few luxuries and mostly goes on the grandkids.
We posted photos of the beautiful hand-made forget-me-nots on our social media pages and we send them free of charge to people requesting them. (While stocks last) We ask people to donate to Alzheimer’s Society https://www.alzheimers.org.uk . Alzheimer’s society have great donation options to celebrate birthdays, weddings and one-off gifts.
We got the idea from a lovely woman called Gabi Chadwick who we know through a caring forum. She sent us our very first hand made forget-me- not free of charge and she mentioned that it had been crafted from wool she’d found when she was clearing out her in-law’s house “It’s their way of being involved too, both had dementia and both would have loved the idea of me making flowers and sharing them” The package came with a selection of stamps in denominations I’d not seen before. Gabi was using up stamps she’d found in the same house!
We found the pattern via the #StockportForgetmeNotProject They had a wonderful display of all their forget-me-nots in the Merseyway shopping centre and they are now available for a donation.
We are delighted with the response to our campaign so far, thanks to our knitters, all our carers our clients, their families and refers. Thanks to all those who strive to raise awareness and to challenge the stereotypes of ageing.
It is possible to live safely, well and independently for longer than ever. And there’s rewarding, well paid, flexible and local work for people like Pat to do well into their retirement.
Professional carers who enjoy focussing on well-being, activity and prompting as opposed to nursing say this is ‘care like it should be’ and by putting carers’s needs first, we are able to provide award winning elderly care.