We all love to hear a good story, but for people with dementia hearing a good story or poem read aloud can be more than just enjoyable – it can be a way to trigger memories and personal stories, open doors to feelings and build bridges to connect to their own past.
The Dementia Reading Companions are a group of volunteers who have been specially trained to lead hour long sessions for people with dementia. The volunteers prepare not only the material to read but a range of other resources, available from Kirklees Libraries and Information Centres, that link to the text and encourage people to make connections with their own lives and memories.
The project has attracted volunteers from lots of different backgrounds:
Bob Clarke saw the advert for volunteers in his local library. He thought: “I can tell a good story!” and immediately phoned up to apply. Bob describes himself as a true Yorkshire man who still does all his own DIY, except for replacing roof tiles as at the grand age of 92 he feels he shouldn’t climb on the roof. Bob is a retired fireman who spent many years working for the West Yorkshire Fire Service and for St James’s Hospital in Leeds as a fire training officer. He loves to read and tell stories, and his favourite poem is Lord Byron’s Semacherib. Bob runs a group at a care home in Gomersal, with fellow volunteer Adrian, and has run three sessions already. His first gave him good experience of heckling as someone called out “Get on with it!”
Susanna Shotter got involved because having spent the last few years at home being a mum, she was planning to return to work in the near future and thought volunteering would be a good route back. Susanna is an Occupational Therapist and has considerable experience running groups and working with people with dementia, something she feels passionate about. She is starting some sessions at a care home in Newsome. Susanna unexpectedly got more involved in the project than she had originally planned, when she stepped in to deliver some dementia awareness sessions as part of the volunteer induction training. As well as dementia awareness, the induction training covered how to run a group, listening skills, managing difficult situations and included input from Kirklees Libraries and Information Centres on resources available in local libraries to support the sessions.
Chris Loveday was drawn to the project because as a former English teacher he has a love of books and reading that he was keen to share, and the idea of using literature therapeutically was too good to resist! Chris has yet to start his sessions but hopes to do so in the future.
Could you be a Dementia Reading Companion?
It’s an enjoyable, social role with immediate feedback!
Contact Chris Stephen on 01484 519053.
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