New service to help unlock memories

Stephen and Clare with a patient's booklet PNL-160902-115714001
Stephen and Clare with a patient's booklet PNL-160902-115714001

Two clinicians working for CNWL NHS Foundation Trust in Milton Keynes are piloting a service for patients with dementia that helps to capture and record some of their earliest memories.

Assistant psychologists Clare Randall and Stephen Halpin, from the Specialist Memory Service, are offering reminiscence therapy on a one-to-one basis to patients diagnosed with dementia who can’t access the normal group memory sessions.

So far, the pair have completed the life stories of three people and are now working with two new patients each.

Reminiscence therapy involves the discussion of past activities, events and experiences with another person or group of people, usually with the aid of prompts such as photographs, household and other familiar items from the past, music and archive sound recordings.

The pair also gently interview patients about some of their early memories, from which they are able to put together a booklet of the patient’s life story. Each session lasts an hour with a maximum of eight sessions per patient.

The books can go with the patient to a new care home so staff there can find out more about the patient and their likes and dislikes. This is useful for when patients have lost the ability to talk.

Clare said: “We are trying to start off carers, so they can continue it with the family member.

“It’s been really positively received by the patients.”