An Open Book

Written by Active Minds on Monday the 21st of October 2013.


Dementia Activity Book for Reminiscence open on a page displaying a painting of a sea shore scene with a lighthouse

Lesley Woolfe, Project Co-ordinator for the Association of Jewish Refugees, writes about sharing the experience of an activity or two with one of the people she cares for with dementia.

The First Visit

Mrs. K had suffered a stroke about 9 years ago and is bedbound.  She is 92 years young.  Loud music was playing when I arrived and the television was on.  Mrs. K was only able to say a few words to me but she did seem to be able to use her left hand and pointed at me to get her a photograph of her husband which she held tightly to her.

I asked Mrs. K’s son about her past life and I discovered that she was a keen gardener and she enjoyed amateur painting.  I arranged to meet Mrs. K by myself two weeks later.

I ordered two products from Active Minds to take with.  One was a book called “In the Garden” and the other was Aquapaint.

When I arrived Mrs. K smiled at me.  The room was quiet apart from the television being on which the carer turned off.  I asked Mrs. K if she would like to share a book with me and she nodded yes.  I used a padded tray so that she did not need to hold the book and we opened the first page.  Mrs. K was able to turn the pages herself (which her carer seemed surprised about) and she studied every page with small comments like “lovely” and “that is nice”.  She didn’t like the pages in black and white and turned those quicker than the others!  Mrs. K looked at the book three times and really seemed to enjoy it. I then went on to use the Aquapaint which requires water and a paintbrush.  I helped Mrs. K put the paintbrush in water and she put a few strokes to the picture but didn’t seem to get the same enjoyment as the book.  I asked if I could finish the picture for her and she seemed happy for me to do this.

I said my goodbyes and she waved and smiled at me.  What a wonderful visit, helped enormously by the book.

The Second Visit

Mrs. K smiled at me when I arrived.  Her carer told me that she had just woken up.  She seemed slightly irritated and in some pain.  I asked her where the pain was and she pointed to her head and said “kopf” which I understood to mean head.  I told the carer who gave her some painkillers.

I then asked her if she would like to look at a book with me and she nodded yes.  I again brought out “In the Garden”.  Mrs. K turned the pages and then to my surprise read some of the large words at the top of the pages!  Mrs. K then became much more engaging and we then looked at photographs of her family.

When I went to leave and put on my jacket she said she liked it.  I asked if I could come again next week and she smiled and nodded yes.

I am looking forward to my next visit!

It is so important to allow people to try and use the skills they still have even if it is as small as being able to turn a page of a book; say a few words or just smile.

My name is Lesley Woofe.  I am Project Coordinator for the Association of Jewish Refugees.  My role is to recruit, train and match volunteer befrienders with our members who have dementia.  The Association of Jewish Refugees (The AJR) provides an extensive range of social and welfare services, and grants financial assistance to Jewish victims of Nazi persecution living in Great Britain.

The Organisation was founded as a Friendly Society in 1941 by Jewish refugees from Central Europe and now has extensive experience attending to the needs of Holocaust refugees and survivors who came to this country before, during and after the Second World War.

When caring for our clients with dementia we need to be mindful of past painful memories that we do not wish to evoke and this is an additional challenge for our volunteer befrienders.  We therefore need to be inventive and creative when befriending our clients and the Active Minds Books are certainly useful for this.

Thank you to Lesley for her time, and for sharing.