Chertsey Museum in Surrey has run a reminiscence service for older people and people with dementia since 2013, providing themed loan boxes of artefacts, music and sensory items to local care homes.
We also provide regular training for care home staff so they can deliver sessions themselves. But a lack of confidence among some people to carry out these sessions means a member of our education team is also a designated reminiscence deliverer, visiting local facilities on a monthly basis.
The Covid pandemic means we are no longer able to visit care homes – and we’re aware that many are having to focus on the daily care and are not able to deliver additional services such as reminiscence work.
We know how beneficial reminiscence sessions can be for the elderly, especially those with dementia or other cognitive impairments. On a very basic level it can be a great mood improver, raising spirits and sharing memories of happy times is a short distraction from the present. It also has more intangible benefits such as helping to increase self-worth and re-establishing a connection to more familiar things.
We are currently applying for grants to enable us to upgrade our boxes and record a series of podcasts that will guide the care home staff through the session.
We decided to use podcasts rather than videos so that people taking part in the sessions will be able to focus on the objects and whoever is delivering the session, rather than watching a screen. Initial responses from potential users has been encouraging.
The objects will be numbered so safe know which to show next, and there will be pauses to enable discussion among the group.
To help protect staff and residents from Covid, boxes will be quarantined for a week either side of a loan.
We hope the podcasts these will increase case home staff’s confidence to deliver these activities independently. No one knows when care homes will be able to open up to visitors again but hopefully these boxes pave the way for people to receive the benefits of reminiscence work without the risks.
Emma Warren is a Curator at the Chertsey Museum