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Narrator: In January 2012, National Museums Liverpool opened the doors to its House of Memories for the first time. The House of Memoires is a museum’s reminiscence training programme that provides social care staff with practical skills and resources to support people living with dementia, to live well with dementia.

Cheryl Magowan, Senior communities manager, National Museums Liverpool (NML): Welcome to National Museums Liverpool, welcome to the House of Memories training programme in our brand new museum that you’re in right now, the Museum of Liverpool.

Monica Ellis, Care assistant: We’ve come to really learn about dementia, how to handle it and how to help those that have dementia, but also help ourselves not feel so inadequate, because that’s what I felt like before.

[Dramatic scenes by AFTA Thought]

Angie: That day in the garden that I blinked at the dog and had to ask my five-year old grand-daughter, what is that? And she said, “Silly Nanny! That’s Barney. That’s your doggy!

Narrator: Using actors to bring the training to life, the day begins by reminding people of what dementia is and the effect it has on the person and their family.

Angie: It was as if I had forgotten how to lie down. And on those nights when my husband woke up, he would just find me standing there, crying.

Grand-daughter: Grandad! What are you doing all the shopping for? Nan’s not ok is she?”

Grandad: N-n-no, she’s fine. She’s just having a bad day, that’s all!

Grandaughter: Nan – what are you doing, we can’t go out now, it’s the middle of the night!

[Everyone talking at the same time]

I need my coat! What are you looking for? You can’t go out it’s the middle of the night. I need my coat. Angie!

Monica Ellis, Care assistant: It’s hard, it’s so hard. I found it very emotional out there, very emotional. But this has taught me that when I go back to the residential home I’ll try and look at things in a different light.

Narrator: Look at things in a different light. This is at the heart of the House of Memories. Reflecting the essence of the national dementia strategy, it seeks to promote and encourage new approaches creating a positive quality of life experience for people living with dementia. It acknowledges the central role the carer can play in helping to unlock memories that are waiting to be shared. This simple process of reminiscing together helps to build that relationship. Museums can equip carers with the necessary tools and resources to do this. One such resource is the Memory Walk.

Steven Williams, Communities demonstrator, NML
You might never have seen that horse in your life. It doesn’t mean you can’t have some connection, some memory to it. If someone sees that item and they start telling you something it isn’t, they start telling you their own story of what they think it is, that’s fine. On a tour we would want to correct them, and say no that’s wrong. But for a memory walk it doesn’t really matter. Think about if you were to do a memory walk what sort of objects you might like to feature, how it might work with the groups that you work with or the people you know.

Kenn Taylor, Communities worker, NML: These are museum objects that we own, that we might have a few of or they might be replicas.

Narrator: For those people that are unable to visit the museum, the museum can actually go out to them, in the form of a Memory Box. During the training day, carers learn how to use the physical objects contained within the box to stimulate memories and encourage conversations.

[General chatter amongst residents and carers]

That’s another bill isn’t it?
So what’s the bill for?
Gas – from the gas board.

My first bike!
Well, my first tricycle.
Oh, a three wheeler.

Sean Murray, Communities worker: When you do a memory session, it’s not about you having to know what questions am I going to ask and when they say that, shall I say that, it’s just about having a conversation with somebody, talking about what’s right in front of them. So it doesn’t matter if they don’t have any memory directly to this – it’s what it means for them. Ok?

Narrator: Outside of the training day, how does this work in practice? In 2010, 82661 people in the Northwest region alone were diagnosed with dementia. Over its first 3 months, 1200 people who care for or support those living with dementia visited the House of Memories, enabling them to access a new approach to dementia training.

[Chatter and background noise in the care home]

Carer: Are you still trying to think where you are?

Muriel: Oh where are we? Do I live here?

Carer: Yes, you do.

Lorraine Weaver, Manager, Hinderton Mount: Well, dementia, as I say, people with dementia, residential homes were quite happy to say, “We can’t care for this person” That was the stigma. They sent them on to EMI homes. That was the easy option. But at this home we don’t move anybody on. There’s always somewhere we can go, and avenue where we can go, to give that person the care.

Carer: Identity card.

Muriel: Oh yes.

Carer: Did you have one of them.

Muriel: Yes I did.

Carer: Is that before you, er…

Muriel: You had to carry that around with you.

Lorraine Weaver, Manager, Hinderton Mount: It does focus on the point and it definitely gets it across about dementia. Definitely. My staff are completely different.

Carer: What’s that? Can you see that picture?

Muriel: Bisto. The bisto kids.

Michelle Hill, care assistant: I learned an awful lot about the course, by the actors that were acting out as well as what was said on the course. And more to deal with people that have got memory loss through Alzheimer’s or dementia or whatever and how to bring back some of their memories and to try and gauge where they are at that point in time so you can have a conversation with them. To stop them getting upset or to repeat all the time the question they’re asking.

Monica, to resident: Because we’d gone to this House of Memories, because the gentleman, they had stuff, so we collected our own so we could show you, you know, and bring back, you know, for when we’re having a chat.

Monica Ellis, care assistant: We’ve got more understanding of it now because before, well, I felt personally frustrated because I did not know how to handle it so they’re made to feel like they are somebody, not just stuck in a home.

Monica: Lewis, did you do that one? Did you do that one, dig for Vict?

Lewis: That was during the war because they had these screens on every the window to stop flying glass if there was a bomb that went off.

[General chatter]

Carer: And the old chemist that you went to, instead of going to the doctors you went to the chemist, didn’t you.

Muriel: Oh it’s from the railway. The railway?

Michelle: Is it? Does it fit? Is that better in the shade?

Muriel: From on the railway?

Michelle: Yes, from the overhead railway isn’t it?

Muriel: Yes.

Muriel, resident: I like talking to people, it’s company. Yes, you don’t feel so isolated.

Michelle Hill, care assistant: What triggered it for me on the course, erm, is that not everyone lives now, in the here and now, sometimes they are living when they are a lot younger. And it’s just realising that when they are at that stage, don’t try and bring them forward to now, because that can just confuse and upset them even more.

Muriel: What is this?

Michelle: What is it, we’re being recorded aren’t we?

Muriel: Pardon?

Michelle: We’re being recorded.

Muriel: What for?

Michelle: About your memory.

Muriel: Oh. Why is it not good?

Michelle: Recent stuff’s not good, but you can remember stuff from a long time ago. But the recent stuff’s not good. But we all get forgetful, don’t we?

Muriel: Yes.

Lorraine Weaver, Manager, Hinderton Mount: I think it is most important. Because we go on dementia training but nothing to this scale. You go like to college and they give you like a booklet on dementia but when you go to the House of Memory, it just hits out at you. You come home thinking about it for weeks. Well, we’re still thinking about it and it must be about 2 months on.

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