Posted on 14 May 2015
Book of You sessions often throw up lovely surprises. We may find websites which relate to a person’s past perhaps with photographs or film of a place they haven’t seen for more than 60 years. Maybe, by using Google Maps, we find that the house someone was evacuated to during the Second World War is still there. All these moments are memorable, not just for the users, but also for me.
Recently I was working at a care home with one couple, I’ll call them Mr and Mrs A. The man had dementia and was enjoying reminiscing about his time in the air force, drawing detailed maps of the camp on a piece of A4 paper, and his wife was trying to remember the title of a song that Mr A used to sing all the time when they were younger. We finally discovered it was Bless ‘Em All. We went on to find a video of it on YouTube and uploaded it to their book. We began to play it for Mr A and he was enjoying singing along, but behind me, something else wonderful was happening.
We hadn’t really noticed the lady at the window when we began our session – she wasn’t part of the group but was another resident who was sitting at a table in her dressing gown very quietly looking out over the beautiful gardens. She hadn’t acknowledged us when we came in and seemed lost in her own world.
As we played Bless ‘Em All, Mrs A nudged me to indicate what was happening when the song played. It wasn’t just her husband, but the lady at the window was singing along and knew all the words. We played it twice and she sang it again. Mrs A asked her whether she liked that song and the lady replied that it brought back memories of when she was 16 years old. She remembered coming out of her house and walking along Colwyn Bay beach watching the German planes fly over. She really came to life as she talked about her memories and she also spoke about the music she liked (including Bless ‘Em All) and how she used to love to go dancing. The dementia disappeared just for a time and we laughed about how we should form a little trio like The Andrews Sisters and we could put on our stilettos, sing and dance on the tables! Such a joyous few minutes, filled with laughter, and all because of one song.
Sometimes music can act like a key to reach parts of the brain when all else has fails. Often families will say to me that Book of You can’t work for their relative because they are ‘too far gone’ or ‘don’t remember anything’. But surely it is worth a try? Due the fact that Book of You is multi-media, we can try all sorts of things to reach those deep seated memories. If not pictures, then words. If not words, then film or music. And we can include personal messages from family too. And even taking part in a group reminiscence session (such as the recent VE Day ones) can help stimulate memories in some people. And we must also remember that even if a person doesn’t join in a conversation, it doesn’t mean they can’t hear and remember without verbally communicating.
Book of You are in the very early days of discovery. It’s a fascinating time for us as we are constantly finding new ways to bring pleasure to people with dementia and to their families and carers. But the most important thing is not to give up. When we create the books we are all like detectives. Finding the clues and making sense of them to open out those great memories we all have.
Further Blogs - test post »