Dementia: reading stimulates memories and imagination

Posted on: 07 October 2010 by Editor at Large

Staff in care homes have long known of the value of reading aloud to dementia sufferers. Poetry and prose, sometimes accompanied by photographs or illustrations, have been found to stimulate memories and imagination.

People who appear to be lost to the world can still be reached through art, literature and music.

Now The Reader Organisation, a Liverpool-based charity that promotes reading aloud, has published A Little Aloud, a selection of prose and poetry especially targeted at dementia sufferers.

Katie Clark runs Reader groups with dementia patients told The Guardian:  "There was one woman called Flo who was very frustrated and aggressive. The staff said, 'Don't sit with her – she'll probably try to hit you.'

"So I sat down a safe distance away and said, 'I'm just going to try reading this poem. If you don't like it that's fine, but let's see what you think of it.'

"And I read the poem through. She relaxed back in her chair, went very quiet, and at the end she said, straight away, 'read another'.

Clark says poetry seems to work better than prose with dementia patients. "When you read poetry aloud, you slow down. Every line is full of meaning, condensed down. At the end, people will often go back and reread one line several times."

Pictures to Share is a Social Enterprise that is dedicated to providing high quality books for those with dementia or cognitive problems.  

Their latest picture book is Family Life In Pictures. This book takes a look at the traditional family. Children, parents, grandparents, ‘tipsy’ uncles and even the family dog are depicted. There are weddings, family meals, celebrations, picnics, church services, holidays and quiet time spent at home reading or in front of the TV.

The books can help aid communication and reminiscence.  They are great for relatives who want to share meaningful time with a loved one, and also for experienced care home staff planning a group activity around the books.

A Little, Aloud: An Anthology of Prose and Poetry for Reading Aloud To Someone You Care For

Family Life in Pictures

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