To mark #WorldMentalHealthDay we list ten of the things we are working on together with carers and people living with dementia. Social media does love a list. Of course we are also raising awareness with Dementia Friends sessions and speaking at conferences and we are on the journey of improving our own organisation to be as dementia friendly as possible too.
1: In response to requests for real human contact across the South Isles, our collaboratively funded Practitioner posts are open to applications now and we are working on a network of well supported volunteers through the Volunteer Centre Western Isles WAVE award (Western Isles Award for Volunteering Excellence).
2: To support carers, our project response to requests for opportunities to try new crafts at home are almost complete – patchwork cushion kit and pin cushion kit.
3: Personal support to carers is available through our informal and collaboration Carers’ High Tea sessions with Alzheimer Scotland once a month. Please book through Bells Road Alzheimer Scotland Lewis & Harris Branch – coming soon to the South Isles.
4: Hand memory support and research through our Woven Communities collaboration project with St Andrews’ University. Sessions are being offered jointly with St. Andrews University, Remoage and Alzheimer Scotland to value the hand memory of people living with dementia, re-making Uist heritage marram grass items such as a ciosan basket and horse collars. These sessions are intergenerational and aim to pass almost lost skills on to a new generation and to work together to create new pieces. An exhibition and publication will follow.
5: Memory Box support through the mobile library network across the South Isles on several local themes. These can be booked by individuals and by care centres to use the resources on island and culturally specific themes. For example, the Sensory Box is filled with dried seaweed to small, leaf tea to smell and brew, local tweeds, hand creams for massage, lights, podcasts of local songs and stories, bubbles, a DVD of the Paul Strand film from Uist Film and many images, clays, paints, waxes and sun print paper to recreate aspects of recent local exhibitions. Feedback is gathered through a book and email and used to develop the boxes.
6: For people living in hospital or staying there for some time, our hospital ward based Tuesday Ceilidhs reconnect people with their ceilidh culture and each other. We take along local village magazines, images, aspects of exhibitions, once Calum Martin offered some Gaelic singing. This is in collaboration with Alzheimer Scotland and also offers information about what is available in the community for people going home and what support is available for carers.
7: Podcasts – we have recorded and are continuing to record and collect playlists for people across the community. These are available on our Soundcloud and as CDs. We record our newsletters and listings for events as a podcast on Soundcloud too.
* Some people sing for other islanders – islander to islander
* We have recorded some ‘Gaelic Without Trying‘ lessons to support paid carers with people reverting to their first language through dementia
* We have recorded local songs and stories as bilingual cultural podcasts to share
* We have gathered playlists of folk music, pipe music, waulking songs, local songs etc.to support Playlist for Life
* We have started to record ‘In Conversation‘ pieces, between people working on a task right now, in conversation with people with a historic knowledge and experience of the task – for example a performance car engineer met and talked with a retired Aston Martin racing engineer.
8: Performance and creative opportunities – people living with dementia are invited and encouraged to be inspired by exhibitions and art works at An Lanntair and its many festivals. These often lead to creative opportunities for art work and performances – for example: foil fish etching for the Herring Girls exhibition and a public exhibition on the gallery stairway, wax and watercolour for the Katie Morag exhibition, waulking songs performance in the gallery for the public during the Harris Tweed Festival and alternative process photography printing through the Eileen/Island exhibition.
9: Special sessions – An Lanntair runs special ‘dementia friendly’ screenings of films by request (the most recent being South Pacific for the singalong factor!) – these are sometimes short films, sometimes local films and sometimes a classic by request. We also run closes exhibition sessions for people needing a higher level of support. For example, the How Big can we Grow? Exhibit by Dutch bubble artist Peter Schrader was particularly suited to people with more advanced dementia and we closed the Auditorium off to the public for this closed session and created bubble pictures afterwards.
10: DEEP Group membership. We are now members of the Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project, in order to support the voices of people living with dementia across the islands, particularly those living in care settings and those with more advanced dementia. The work we do seeks out those voices through arts and engagement sessions and looks to make the requested changes with the support of a national network.