Written by Active Minds on Wednesday the 11th of December 2013.
In 2009, Ben Atkinson-Willes experienced firsthand what it’s like to care for a loved one with dementia. Ben was a design student at Kingston University, when his grandfather developed Alzheimer’s disease. He very quickly found that there was a lack of suitable activities available for people and carers living with dementia.
Ben worked closely with St. Georges Hospital and Kingston University to develop his first range of jigsaw puzzles designed specifically for people with dementia. He arranged consultations with carers in a local home and began working with the head of dementia care at St. George’s hospital.
“I used my own skills as a product designer and asked myself key questions: what images would help to invoke memories; could someone living with dementia complete a puzzle unaided? I set about testing the activities in care homes, and saw some remarkable results. I observed a resident who was living with dementia begin to talk in detail about his time in the war as he completed a puzzle with a picture of a Spitfire. It was these successes that drove me to carry on developing activities that could help deliver a better quality of care for people living with dementia.”
Poppy Zella Reed
Poppy’s grandmother was diagnosed with dementia in the late 90s.
“It was a journey that lasted a decade. My grandmother had to be moved to a home and to try to help her feel more at ease I remember my Mum making her a picture book using old family photos. Grandma loved to look at it with us. It wasn’t long before my Mum decided to dedicate her life to dementia reseach. Nowadays she’s a CQC Age UK Expert by Experience! Her dedication to trying to help improve the lives of older people and those with dementia really rubbed off on me. I think when I was a lot younger I didn’t really understand any of it, but as the years went past my picture of dementia started to come into focus a little more and by my early twenties I was working closely with Mum to develop a series of reminiscence activities and workshops. I was then introduced to Ben and it’s a great pleasure to be working with him now.”
Megan is the newest addition to the growing Active Minds team.
“I’m looking forward to helping to find new ways to improve the quality of dementia care. Despite being a recent graduate I have been fortunate enough to have had experience working in social businesses where I’d be connecting daily with older people. A neighbour of mine has recently been diagnosed with dementia and so I am now also experiencing a family’s day-to-day life adjusting to the news.”