Staff at Home Meadow Care Home in Toft, Cambridgeshire are working with local students in an exciting initiative to help residents living with dementia. The sixth form students, who are based at Comberton Village College have created the ‘All About me’ project with Home Meadow’s Activities Coordinator Joe Ballard, to help residents unlock treasured memories from their past.
As part of the project, the students, who are learning about various aspects of health and social care, interview the residents to help capture a potted history of their past, bringing out poignant memories from years gone by. This information is then brought together in a pictorial storyboard that is displayed in the residents’ rooms and used by the staff as part of their care plan.
Staff at the care home, which is part of the Healthcare Homes Group, are promoting this work as part of the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Awareness Week. They aim to help raise awareness and understanding of the condition, but also to demonstrate the creative ways that those living with dementia can be helped through difficult times.
The ‘All About Me’ project is just one part of a raft of initiatives led by Joe, which aim to provide support to those living with dementia and for those who care for people with the condition. Joe runs a ‘Community Dementia Awareness’ group on the last Wednesday of every month, at which guests can hear from expert speakers and take part in workshops. He is also launching ‘Walks to remember’ from Friday 24th June – bi-weekly guided walks for residents around the village, which friends, family and carers are welcome to participate in.
Comberton Village College Sixth Form teacher Richard Waller and Joe Ballard began working together two years ago. Their aim was to help the students learn more about dementia and the care setting, and to allow the students to contribute towards the home and the work of the team. The ‘All About Me’ project takes place every Wednesday, with around 15-20 students visiting Home Meadow as part of their ‘enrichment sessions’.
Many of the students are interested in employment in the social and healthcare industry and the project enables them to see first-hand how the care setting operates. A key focus for the students has been understanding dementia, and as many of the residents at Home Meadow suffer from this condition, they have also been able to understand how this can affect individuals and their day to day life.
George Catanescu, Regional Manager of the Healthcare Homes Group said: “This is a fantastic project which has really brought huge benefits to our residents and to the home as a whole. The storyboards the students have created are really quite emotive and help our staff refer to key stories or special memories which can offer comfort in times of confusion or distress or simply help them access a part of their life they may have forgotten for some time.
“Many of the residents recognise the students when they arrive each week and are extremely pleased to see them, so some lovely relationships have been formed.
“Across all of our 35 homes we work very hard to create a positive and enjoyable environment for our residents and initiatives like this allow us to find new creative ways of engaging with those residents living with dementia.”
Richard, who is responsible for Community Projects at Comberton Village College said: “We enjoy a fantastic relationship with Home Meadow, which has allowed us to bring different generations together to contribute to the experiences of those living in the care home.
“Over the last two years, by working with Joe, we have carried out a variety of projects to help the staff and have come up with events and projects for residents to engage with. There is such a wonderful sense of community at Home Meadow and it has been so positive seeing the students grow as they have become more and more confident in talking to the residents and can see for themselves how valued their work has been.
“Projects such as ‘All About Me’ allow the students to work with the residents by focusing on different mental and sensory skills. Memories are often confusing and out of sequence when you have dementia, so with skilful questioning, the students can help residents articulate their stories and capture this for them to use as a lasting tool. It’s really lovely to observe the interaction between a resident and a student, and to see the pleasure it brings them both as they discover a treasured memory.”