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Stimulating Memory in Dementia

  (July 08, 2014)

LONDON, July 8, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --

Reaching out to family and friends who suffer symptoms of dementia can be an emotional and stressful communication. For people who suffer advanced Alzheimer's and other related diseases holding conversation is difficult and often impossible; it can be frustrating for the person and distressing for friends and family. Spring Chicken is working with Dementia Workshop to bring families and care givers the tools and apparatus to make conversation easier and connection possible.

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Afternoon tea conversation prompt tin, 37.99

Available from

This colourful cake shaped tin is filled with memorabilia to help your friend or relative reminisce about the good old days.

Helps to recapture memories, stimulate conversation and encourage eating. Includes washable fabric cakes, pastry brush and cutters. Replica memorablia, postcard, photographs and conversation prompts.

Around the 1950s memory basket, 49.99

Available from

This 1950s themed memory box contains everything you need to get chatting and reminiscing about the good old days. There are photographs, postcards and adverts from that era, as well as things you can pick up and touch such as dolly pegs and carbolic soap. The set also contains a couple of familiar childhood games to play. Plenty to keep the conversation going.

Toolkit themed memory box, 70

Available from

This Tool Kit shaped storage kit contains lots of memorabilia for the DIY enthusiast. The box is packed with reminders of everyday tools, gadgets and general hardware including memorabilia postcards and photographs, conversation prompt cards and a carer guide.

Laundry day chatter, 28

Available from

This a fun washing machine shaped tin comes brimming with colourful photographs and advertisements from the wash days of a bygone age to stir up memories and get you chatting.

Sarah Boyle, founding partner of Spring Chicken and whose mother has suffered Alzheimer's disease for 10 years said: "Importantly, each basket holds a wide variety of things just to talk about, things to read, touch, even smell! So now that my mum is in the latter stages of dementia, our conversation using the basket is more around 'This fabric tomato feels soft,' or 'I like the colour of the tea pot in that picture.' These collections are versatile enough to be used at all stages of dementia, often promoting lucid memories from 'back in the day' in the early stages, and then gentle observational chat in the latter stages. They're a great investment as you will be able to revisit them again and again and always find something to talk about."

Each memory baskets has been created by Gillian Hesketh of Happy Days Dementia Workshop. Finding it difficult to read at school Gillian realised later in life that her dyslexic tendencies had produced other benefits: "Struggling with aspects of dyslexia forced me to over-compensate in other areas; taking shapes, colours, textures on board to help me remember topics that would be in text." Gillian has used this insight to create the memory boxes.

She regularly works with care homes and says: "People need social interaction for overall well-being. Carers can enjoy using Happy Days materials to help initiate and engage in meaningful conversations. Talking itself is an activity. Finding out about a person's interests, hobbies and favourites ensures provision of enriched social care."

Sarah Boyle, has put together hertop tips for how to talk to someone with advanced symptoms of dementia.

Sarah said: "My mother has had Alzheimer's for 10 years now and one of the things that happens with dementia is that it becomes increasingly difficult to talk to the person because their frame of reference diminishes over time. Early on the short term memory seems to be the most difficult, yet childhood memories can be very vivid. My mum's now in the latter stages and sadly, nearly all her memories have gone. This makes any type of conversation almost impossible, and certainly a very stilted and uncomfortable experience for both of us. So what an amazing support these memory baskets are."

  1. Always introduce yourself, even just saying your name when you arrive. Also regularly use the name of the person you are talking to for comfortable reassurance.
  2. We tend to think of communication as verbal but don't forget all the senses - touch and smell are important memory stimulants. Gestures, laughter and reminiscent music are reassuring. Holding hands or a light touch on the arm is very powerful.
  3. Talking about current events or even other family members can be confusing and overwhelming for someone who doesn't have a frame of reference or short-term memory. Instead, try and focus on the here and now or what is in the same room - people watch or look at pictures together,
  4. Reading someone a story, a magazine or an article gives you both an activity.
  5. If the person still has language allow plenty of time for them to reply and respond. It's often tempting to finish sentences but try really hard not to interrupt or rush them.
  6. Avoid background noise if you can. TV and radio make concentrating on what you're saying very difficult.
  7. Having said that listening to music together or singing a song, or even a nursery rhyme has seen powerful results in stimulating connection, even prompting words from people who can no longer speak.
  8. Avoid questions that require retrieving information from memory, again - focus on the here and now. In the latter stages avoid questions altogether, even "how are you?" can strike panic in someone who doesn't remember how they are.
  9. I can't underemphasize the power of appearing calm and positive. Reassurance is key and a big smile and upbeat tone of voice a real help!
  10. You may need to be patient if you encounter 'looping' this is the immediate repeating of a question, story or comment - it can be very frustrating to listen to. Try not to correct the person with dementia, or point out their repetition, what I find useful is to change the subject; point and talk about something out of the window, move to another room, make a cup of tea, anything to snap out of the repetition.
  11. Don't start tasks that are going to fail, like a board game with complex rules.what we found worked really well was when mum would sit down with her young grandchildren to play with play dough, simple colouring-in, paper weaving etc Mum would be at the table long after the children had lost interest - she was enjoying being successful at something and it gave her a great sense of achievement.


Sarah Boyle, Spring Chicken and Gillian Hesketh, Dementia Workshop


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