How a reading group helps people with dementia

Reading group helping people with dementia

Posted on: 17 May 2016

“Catford! Catford! It was just like that in Catford in 1947…”

The woman who called out had been sitting quietly and seemingly, disconnected, from the rest of the reading group.

They were reading the first page of Bleak House aloud, and it was Dickens’ description of the thick fog in London which prompted this strong reaction. In fact, reading this one page provoked a long discussion in the group about their memories and the associations they made with the descriptions.

This weekly interactive reading group has been running at Spring House Residential Care Home in Peter Tavy since September 2014. It’s organised by local volunteers and most of the group members have some form of dementia.

Local resident Alan Payne, had the idea for the group after attending a shared reading group at his local library run by The Reader Organisation. Amazed at the impact this interactive approach had, Alan suggested running a similar group at the care home where his wife is a resident.

With the home’s support Alan recruited volunteers from the local amateur theatre company to run the group, with 6-12 residents attending each session.

Over the last 18 months the care home staff have seen how this reading group has helped residents to interact more with other people, and can see the general alertness of people increase during the sessions.

“For some individuals, it’s almost a life saver,” says Alan. One resident has attended every session, and has collected every piece of prose or poetry they discuss to read through in the evenings.

“So many activities in care homes are passive.”

Shared reading groups like this one can provide stimulus for people to start a conversation or a discussion; they are a way of triggering thoughts and memories and sharing them. Engaging in conversations which provoke memories and feelings from the past can be hugely valuable for all older people, and especially people with dementia.

Want to set up a shared reading group? Contact The Reader Organisation for more information, via their website.

The contact for the South West is Caroline Adams carolineadams@thereader.org.uk

1 comment on “How a reading group helps people with dementia

  1. Mandy Ewings says:

    Brilliant idea, so good for residents to be able to enjoy memories and stimulate their minds.
    Well done Alan Payne.
    Mandy Ewings

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