Museum Preview

Museum Nan Eilean

Working at the Museum yesterday, I was inspired by the preview session in advance of public opening later in the year.

It struck me that so many of the exhibits and artefacts would be within living memory of some of the people I have been working with. I think that the process of regression with dementia opens up very clear distant memories and that this clarity could offer detail and anecdotal information to the museum. As well as being interesting and fun to have a preview visit, of course.

I made a couple of calls and spoke with Angus at the Museum about times and Gaelic speaking. This museum is the first to offer primarily Gaelic language. We have organised for a couple of group preview sessions to take place over the next couple of weeks from a care home and a day centre.

I’m looking forward to them!

Carers High Tea

The last Thursday of each month 5.30-7.30pm sees our Carers’ High Tea collaboration event with Alzheimer Scotland at the Cafe Bar in An Lanntair.

We welcome Carers to book with Alzheimer Scotland in Bells Road. The sessions are free and a main meal, dessert and coffee/tea are provided. 

The idea is to offer the opportunity to enjoy a meal and social occasion, supported by staff. This could also offer information about further support for Carers or it could simply be an opportunity to relax and enjoy an evening out together with your partner or a break for yourself. 

Alzheimer Scotland pays for meals and our project pays for desserts and drinks. We both offer support from staff.

Last night, three couples came along. One lady commented that she’d had such a lovely time that she couldn’t believe it was so late and the taxi had arrived!

I learned a lot about ‘The Man That Never Was’, ‘Operation Minestrone’ and emigration to Australia, the £10 passage, last night. Plus there was a beautiful story about a family dog, an Irish Wolfhound, who broke out of the house every day to walk the boy home from school. Other conversations involved how David Beckham is looking good as an older man, beards and Lidos from the Art Deco period.

A good time had by all!


Woven Communities

Our academic collaboration project led by Jon Macleod began today with a visit from Anthropologist Dr Stephanie Bunn of St Andrew’s University and Dawn Susan, basketmaker and  local basketry historian.

We visited the new museum and spent time looking at a ciosan basket, how it was made and looking at the materials with Ashley and Angus.

We met afterwards, pinning down a trip to Uist in June, working intergenerationally to recreate a marram woven basket from scratch – harvesting, preparing the materials and creating the basket with them, learning as we go.

We will be working with people who have living memory of such baskets and sharing their stories as part of the academic work and to feed back to the museum and historical societies.

We will be looking at hand memory and at how dementia can unlock early memory, which is often lost to ageing without dementia.


Storytelling at a local care home today


Margaret and Margaret Anne were two of the captivated audience at a local care home today, when Donald Saunders offered Gaelic chat, storytelling and Gaelic cultural podcast showcasing to individuals and small groups. 

Margaret was keen to know about where Donald was from and who he knew, they shared stories of their home villages in Gaelic.

Margaret Anne enjoyed the silly stories and tried to remember names of dogs and which car the family had, to add colour to the stories, joining in where she remembered how it went. Gaelic was much easier than English for her and she spent a great deal of time giggling, I felt as though she was reliving her children’s playfulness through the stories. ‘I used to tell my children such stories….’, she reminisced. 

15 people enjoyed his tall tales, some guffawing with laughter, some feigning horror at the local legends. Some simply enjoyed the opportunity to chat in Gaelic for a change. 

We left CDs of the podcasts with everyone, to make it easier to use them however works best – sometimes popping a cd in a player works best and that’s fine. 

Of course, some people have wonderful stories of their own and we are looking into ways of valuing and celebrating them. 

Collaborative support for people in hospital through Memory Cafe pop ups on the ward

The Memory Cafe collaboration popup continued today at Western Isles Hospital. People were enjoying the support of OT and Senior Nursing staff, together with domestic and nursing staff and DFC project staff to collaborate with Alzheimer Scotland staff on these sessions on the ward. 

The idea is to relieve boredom and loneliness, to offer social interaction opportunities, to support memory problems or concerns and to offer information on community resources.

Since the first session, people have started talking about going to ‘the cafe’, talking about the conversations they had and the people they saw. This week, there was a lovely ‘buzz’ of conversation in the room and people were sharing local stories and recollections together. The favourite story today was about a monkey that lived on the island in the 1940s, which wore a little jumper. 

Tea, coffee and cake went down well, as usual.


Project afternoon on Erisort Ward

I took along some activities to Erisort Ward this afternoon.

Hand tied flower bouquets, Herring Girls modelling from the Katie Scarlet Howard exhibition recently at An Lanntair and some wax and watercolour technique painting as offered by Mhairi Hedderwick.

The 5 people who came along had been on different wards for varying amounts of time and their stories ranged from the shock of a fall and an unexpected admission, through frustration at waiting to go home and on to boredom and feeling the long hours.

We created some fun models, some little posies and paintings and had a chat to break up the day.  Learned that one lady particularly loved sewing and another loved baking – possible ideas for the future.

Memory Cafe at WIH

The first Memory Cafe from Western Isles Hospital Erisort Ward took place today. A collaboration between Alzheimer Scotland, this project and the NHS.

Three patients from Erisort came and two from Med2. There were 2 Alzheimer Scotland staff, 4 NHS staff including senior nursing staff and OTs, 3 student nurses and three carers/relatives as well as myself from our project.

The session clearly benefitted people who came along, the animated expressions on their faces as they had the opportunity to chat with each other, student nurses and senior staff members about how it feels to be in hospital and where they are from etc. Was lovely to see. I could see that relatives were enjoying seeing their loved ones socialising and having fun.

The tea, coffee and cake went down very well too.

I will be taking a project session in on Friday and the Memory Cafe sessions will continue for another six weeks.

Paula Brown, Marion MacInnes and Denise Symington were at the session and I’ve also added the information images from the board, explaining why this is important.

See you next week! PB


Storytelling in Lewis & Harris

In celebration of our wonderful cultural podcasts, I took Donald Saunders to Harris House today and to Solas Day Centre. We shared some of the podcasts and some live Gaelic and English storytelling with people, who then shared some of their stories with us. There were some very tall tales followed by ‘true story’ (wink), some reportedly true stories, some hilarious local yarns and a couple of songs.