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A second chance

Grace Stead

“Your nan has dementia.”

This new word crashed into my world. Dementia? What does that even mean? Is it just that she repeats herself all the time and that she can’t remember certain things?

My nan on my dad’s side was diagnosed with something that had been off my radar until now. Dementia had come into my world and my life would never be the same.

Because I didn’t fully understand dementia, I made a lot of mistakes with my nan and did some things I wish I hadn’t. However, I did spend the years desperately trying, with my dad, to get the staff at the care home to help stimulate my nan – to get her out of bed and dressed or to take her down to see the singers and entertainers that came in.

Joyce, Grace's nanI became so frustrated as her granddaughter and decided to start doing my own research on dementia. After seeing the massive
effect that music had on Nan, I began exploring how creativity could help. However, she sadly passed away around five years ago.

My maternal nan has now been diagnosed with a mixture of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia and she continues to live at home. This has given me a second chance to use my knowledge to help her and improve her quality of life.

So if she’s upset or agitated, I try to consider how dementia is causing her to react in the way she is. I talk to my grandad who is her primary carer and ask him to cut himself some slack. Sometimes you shout or get upset as a carer, but you are only human. I help him understand how dementia affects her and what helps, so that he isn’t left with the same thoughts that I have about my other nan – that I could have or should have done things differently.

What drives me now? That ‘should have’ or ‘could have’ still haunts me, so I have created a not-for-profit company in Sheffield called Enrichment for the Elderly, which hopes to spread understanding through creativity.

We offer workshops for people with dementia, helping them to remember, communicate and feel calm and happy through creative pursuits, including music, storytelling, puppetry and more. We also provide Wonderment Training for care staff, helping them to enrich people’s lives through creativity. My nan has been the starting point for many of my creative intervention ideas.

Creative-workshopWe have just delivered the Wonderment Project in three care homes across Sheffield where residents made their own puppets and created videos diaries over 10 weeks. This brought a lot of laughter and joy and supported residents to connect with each other and with family members when words have become difficult to find. We also recently did some training with ‘Drink Wise, Age Well’ in Sheffield, supporting volunteers to understand dementia when they are helping carers in the community.

I’d like to see a world where carers get the support they need, where people with dementia have an opportunity to express themselves during all stages and where the general public have greater understanding of how their actions can affect carers and people with dementia.

Find out more about Enrichment for the Elderly at www.enrichmentfortheelderly.org

4 Responses to A second chance

  1. Avatar
    Con Micallef 21 May 2016 at 12:44 am #

    Hi grace
    My wife also has mix of Dimentia and Vascular disease .Our daughter and i look after her at home and sometimes it is diff. not to be a little demanding and frustrated with her which should not happen . Here in NewZealand we have facilities which invite home stay patients to visit small communial groups but not so much arranged to enhance or improve cognitive well being.
    Would like to know moreof what you do.
    We subcribe to a US Foundation which distribute possible the best potent supplements I know. Life Extension Foundation. On internet LEF.org. Thereare 2 supplements which I have found to be beneficial VINPOCETINE AND BENFOTIAMI for Vascular.
    Regards. Con Micallef

  2. Avatar
    Sandra Cox 21 May 2016 at 2:08 pm #

    Hello Grace, my Mum had Alzheimers.I was a mental health nurse but I still found it difficult to cope with her mood swings at times. She passed away last Xmas aged 94 in a wonderful nursing home who knew how to support me and give Mum the care she needed. It is possible to engage with suffers when you have good support. Sandie.

  3. Avatar
    Lisa Skinner 21 May 2016 at 5:20 pm #

    Hi Grace. I applaud you for what you are doing. It’s incredibly amazing and sooooo valuable. Lisa Skinner, author of “Not All HO Wander Need Be Lost” Stories of Hope for Families Facing Alzheimer’s and Dementia

  4. Avatar
    Kim 24 May 2016 at 8:39 pm #

    Well done Grace. I think there is still a lack of understanding in communities. My team at work all became Dementia Friends and signed up for Sea Hero Quest – all because i speak about how Alzheimers has affected my family. What you are doing to help is amazing. Go girl!

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