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Engage & Enjoy

Are You Visiting a Relative in a Care Home?

Well, it's been another really super busy week, creating nostalgic displays in residential care homes. Our Happy Days interactive displays bring about some amazing responses from residents, carers, families and visitors. Smiling - Nodding - Pointing - Touching - Talking - Reminiscing - Engaging in meaningful conversations becomes the norm. Communication between visitors who may not usually chat with each other becomes the order of the day. The list goes on. I’ve seen members of staff, often rushing past each other, stopping to admire materials and

have a chat. Sometimes, all it takes is a 1960's coffee pot or a 1950's mantle clock to catch a person's attention and it's wonderful to watch people engaging through this media.

Yesterday, the moment my colleague Sue had finished unpacking a shiny red 1960’s telephone and set it on the sideboard of a residential dementia care home, a visitor scooped it up and sat with her mother, chatting, interacting, dialling numbers on the phone. There were so many smiles it made my heart leap. This is what my work is all about. I wanted so much to ask to take their photograph - it would have spoken a thousand words - but I just didn’t want the magic to end for mother and daughter.

Later the resident’s daughter explained how she was always running out of things to say to her mother during her regular visits; how to interest or engage her mum in everyday conversations. Now, readers, if you have met me at a care exhibition or workshop, you’ll know that I don’t need a second request to show off Happy Days

memory prompts and nostalgic materials to help visitors and carers engage and enrich social care for elderly and people living with dementia. I chose a cotton drawstring bag of painted wooden soldiers, each individually

wrapped in tissue for the resident’s daughter and suggested she ask her mother to help unwrap the pieces. The two ladies became entrenched with the tactile blue and red soldiers. Two residents joined in, standing the soldiers in rows; freeing up time for carers to chat with other residents or catch up with everyday tasks. This

marvellous scene proved my point once again. If residential care homes provide nostalgic materials for families and friends to engage with during visits to relatives, they often visit for longer periods of time. The family member feels that their visits are more worthwhile. The resident benefits from spending time with family and

friends. Carers may find a few extra moments to catch up. And so, the feel-good factor radiates throughout the care home environment. Repeat this scenario and prepare to be surprised by the results.

So my tip to carers and families: Don’t expect to complete a game or follow the rules. Moments in time activities are just as important to a person living with dementia: Stacking / Sorting / Arranging / Feeling / Winding and so on. A game’s pieces can clearly stimulate shared interaction or prompt meaningful conversations. Remember - Just talking is an activity.

We might not like to admit it, but sometimes, visiting a relative or friend in a residential or care environment can be daunting. If we're honest, the visit can sometimes be - dare we admit it? - dreaded. It's not because we don't want to see or be with our loved ones - it's often because we run out of things to do to engage with them meaningfully. We want our visits to be worthwhile. What are we going to say after the initial Hellos and How are you’s? - After we've unwrapped the flowers and nodded - After we've opened the sweets - put fresh pyjamas in the cupboard - After the awkward pauses and glances at the clock? Using photographs, memorabilia and nostalgic items can prompt our long term memory and be effective in bringing about stories to share and enjoy. Interacting with nostalgic materials can help encourage movement, maintain everyday living skills and boost blood flow. Improving social interaction can help relieve boredom and lift mood. Helping our loved ones and the people we care for become interested and engaged can feel rewarding and we naturally feel more useful. Leaving the person settled and happy, we feel a sense of value which often uplifts the spirit. And when we feel good, this reflects onto the person or people we are caring for.

At Happy Days, we understand that not everyone can engage in activities - that's why our Activity Trolley includes a carer guide with some sensitive tips for carers and visitors and volunteers. This is why the 'Happy Days Activity Trolley’ has become so popular. Packed with nostalgic activities, sorting materials, themed memory boxes, table top jigsaw and colouring cards for mature adults, we're encouraging Care Home and Care Services to provide activity trolleys for families and friends to share with their loved ones during visits. So carers, remind your managers - this may be one way to re-allocate valuable carer time.

It's great to see many care home owners and managers, home care organisations, hospitals and dementia cafes really beginning to get on board now. But we'd like to see more opportunities for visitors and residents to engage and enjoy - So next time you're visiting a care home, hospital, rehabilitation centre or dementia cafe, tell

them about a "Happy Days Activity Trolley' - and just send them to us -

Happy Days everyone,

Gillian 2016©

Gillian Hesketh MA

Happy Days Dementia Workshop & Nostalgic Design

Happy Days Activity Trolleys

Choose - Display - Interact - Enjoy

Unique - Cost Effective.

Email: - Phone: 07971-953620

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