More than one million people in the UK are expected to have dementia by 2025, while 70% of people in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems. Despite being one of the main causes of disability in later life , the UK spends much less on treating it than cancer, heart disease and strokes, according to The Guardian.
A number of innovative techniques have been tried by care homes to engage those with dementia, including virtual reality therapy, opera and standup comedy. Reading poems aloud – or shared reading – can have a significant impacton residents’ mood, concentration and social interaction.
Brada has led shared reading groups at Stapely since 2015 and – with two other volunteers – now runs three groups a week. During each one-hour session, three poems are read aloud multiple times by the residents, and then discussed. Care home trustee Philip Ettinger says staff attend the groups themselves if they can spare the time.
“Staff get a buzz from it,” he says. “It’s a privilege to witness the joy on residents’ faces as they realise they can still get great satisfaction from reading aloud together.”
The groups are the brainchild of Liverpudlian charity The Reader, which first worked with a care home in 2006. In 2016-17 the organisation ran 514 shared reading groups around the country – 15% of which were in care homes or community groups for people with dementia. Other participants might face issues such as mental health conditions, chronic pain, isolation or recovery from substance misuse. Supported by a £850,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund, The Reader has plans to recruit more volunteers and double the number of shared reading groups around the UK over the next three years.
Read more on how prose helps dementia patients at The Guardian.