Dementia Engaged & Empowered Derry & Strabane (DEEDS) is part of the Old Library Trust, Creggan, in Derry, offering group activity supporting people in the early stages of dementia, with a range of different needs, to live well for longer in the community.
Covid and lockdown had a major impact on both those living with dementia, and also their carers, who no longer had access to respite. or other services.
Ordinarily, we run four Carers Education Programmes annually in the community, teaching about dementia and its affects, about communication, and activities like life story work etc. This is taught face-to-face in groups, but, of course, we were now faced with a new way of working.
Our listening ear service for members’ carers identified that they needed to learn more about how to engage their loved ones in a range of meaningful activity at home, helping to occupy their loved one, adding structure to their day, helping them cope with anxiety, supporting motivation and thus aiding their health and well-being.
We piloted a new learning programme called Carers Connect aimed at teaching carers about meaningful engagement in a wide range of areas e.g. Cognitive Stimulation, Exercise, Dance, Music and Singing, Art, Life Story Work, Themed Work. We also added Self Care to the programme for the carer, with videos on Mindfulness, Hand Massage and Self Care Techniques.
Each carer was given the loan of a tablet to engage on the 8-week programme. The tablets came with all activities uploaded that we had made during lockdown. Whilst these were on OLT’s YouTube channel, we understood carers needed easy access to these tools to help them participate as fully as possible. They also got a bag of arts and craft materials and themed worksheets to support their learning.
Sessions were conducted mainly one-to-one on Zoom, with joint sessions for the Music and Singing, Exercise, Dance and Movement classes as these leant themselves more easily to group activity than other topics.
Evaluation took the form of a questionnaire and interview. The impact was twofold:
- Learning could be replicated by carers for further engagement once the programme was over. All learners reported they were more confident to try the activities at home.
“I learnt a different approach and how to use the senses just opened your mind to a different way of thinking”.(Veronica)
“Learning new skills was an amazing experience and it was something I could share with my family after – sharing the learning.”(Kerri)
- Impact on the health and wellbeing not just of the person with dementia, but also the carer/learner.
“It was a God send – something to look forward to.”(Veronica)
“This programme was helpful as it empowered me to take good care of my own health as well as dad’s. It left me with tools, skills and a new perspective. It was a way back to the relationship of father and daughter (not just carer) Caring isn’t just physical needs – emotional needs are important.”(Jacqui)