The winter months will continue to be challenging for our vulnerable elderly population especially those living alone and with memory loss. We are all missing physical contact with our families and friends and, whatever Tier we find ourselves in when this article is published, it is critically important that we engage creativity with how we connect meaningfully with those feeling isolated.
Here at The Heather Club – an adult day care centre for people with dementia, we have spent time over the past months planning and preparing to deliver an outreach program for our members while we are unable to open our doors for our day centre. One area we are focusing on is helping our members to connect creatively with their senses.
The Heather Club is creating sensory boxes for our members which is an easy and fun idea to engage any vulnerable family or neighbours over these lonely winter months. These little gifts can provide stimulation, encouragement and hope that spring is just around the corner. Of course, when delivering anything to a vulnerable person, please remember to place gifts in a bag 72 hours before delivering and follow the Government’s guidelines about social distancing and the use of PPE.
Here’s some ideas to inspire you to create your own sensory boxes or holiday gifts:
1) Sight: Do you have any previously-loved jigsaw puzzles that you could pass on? When delivering you could share the story behind the puzzle for example ‘Jamie loves Dinosaurs, so this puzzle has many happy memories…’. Alternatively, you could provide some brightly coloured pieces of tissue or Christmas wrapping paper and a glue stick to create spring flowers.
2) Sound: Alongside chatting on the doorstep, could you arrange to call and sing together from a spotify genre playlist? Singing had been proven to generate feelings of wellbeing and a direct connection to memories. If you don’t see yourselves singing, try reading out your favourite poem.
3) Touch: It is so sad the touch is something we can’t do at the moment, but do you have any tactile objects such as shells at home which you could share to bring back memories of trips to the seaside? Any tactile object that can evoke memories could be an invaluable resource.
4) Taste: An edible treat will not only help with tempting an elderly person to eat, but can also bring back memories and feelings of inclusion.
5) Smell: A scented soap or some fragrant spring flowers may excite the sense of smell.
The Heather Club is constantly looking for opportunities for our members to reminisce, to move, to feel part of the community -all factors essential to help engendering well-being in this vulnerable group. In these unprecedented times, we have to rethink how to safely connect lives within the community. Hopefully before long, there will be light at the end of the tunnel and services will resume for many local community groups like The Heather Club in Hemel Hempstead. At which time we will look forward to welcoming you with open arms into a safe and respectful environment where you can feel part of something again, eat a home cooked meal, take part in singing and dancing and reminisce about old times with the wonderfully warm and friendly staff.
Jayne Wilton is a trustee of The Heather Club which is based in Hemel Hempstead. The Heather Club is a day care centre for adults with dementia offering sociability and stimulation to people living with early stage dementia and memory loss. For more support and advice please visit us at our website www.theheatherclub.com or follow us on our Facebook page ‘The Heather Club’ or on Instagram at the_heather_club.