As the 2014 World Cup gets underway, a bumper summer of top sporting events may be the key to unlocking memories and improving communication with people living with dementia, according to experts at leading social care provider Care UK.
Maizie Mears-Owen, head of dementia services, said: “With the FIFA World Cup and a very exciting Wimbledon to look forward to, there are lots of ways to use sport to tap into the memories of friends and relatives living with dementia.
“A man who has played and watched football from childhood, followed a much-loved team around the country and lived the highs and lows, still has those memories; they just need to be accessed.”
Gathering the family around the television to watch games may be fun too. “People respond to the energy of being together and three generations of a family shouting at the television is very bonding, but remember that the noise may prove too much for some people. Someone with dementia may see themselves as still being aged about 30, in which case a DVD of the 1966 or 1970 World Cups is ideal, as it fits into how they see the world.”
Senses are important as a way into memories, and taste and smell are very powerful. “If it is what your relative did, get in some pies and Bovril or soup to have at half time,” Maizie said.
“The same is true for tennis fans. Find a DVD of a classic final from the right era and enjoy some strawberries and cream and, if medication allows, a nice glass of Pimms with all the trimmings. It is a way to create new family memories whilst tapping into the old.”
Sporting memorabilia can also be used to trigger memories. Maizie said: “In Care UK’s 113 homes, we use memory boxes filled with interesting bits and pieces to start conversations with people about their past.
“If your loved one is a sports fan, you can fill a box with old scarves they may have worn, rosettes they won in competitions or wore at matches, an old whistle or rattle, small pieces of sports equipment from the sports they loved, such as a golf tee, ball and score card and, if you have them, old collectors cards that featured famous footballers, cricketers and racing drivers. You could even order old copies of newspapers and include the sports pages in the box and talk about the results.”
Music too is highly evocative and thanks to You Tube it is possible to play the opening titles of vintage shows such as World of Sport, Match of the Day, Grandstand, Test Match Special and the much-loved 1970s sporting challenge Superstars.
Other good resources include the website www.sportingmemoriesnetwork.com and most visits to club and stadium museums can also be arranged. For those people wanting to find other ways to communicate with a loved one with dementia, a new free guide entitled ‘Listen, Talk, Communicate’ can be downloaded from www.careuk.com/talk-dementia.