Great Yarmouth-based Memory Joggers take great strides to help dementia sufferers

WHEN colleagues Bob Warnes and Sheena McBain made a snap decision to attend a one off training course, they had little idea they would soon become sought after experts in helping people deal with dementia.

The friends, who both worked for the museum service in Great Yarmouth, were offered the opportunity to train in reminiscence - a practise which uses memorabilia, or 'triggers', to recall memories.

They enjoyed the course so much they decided to set up a small business, Memory Joggers, and began going into care homes armed with a treasure chest of historic items to work with residents suffering with dementia.

Using their triggers - including a chamber pot, vintage doll, carbolic soap, hankies, old bus passes and a pair of corsets - which are popular with the men - they improve patients' wellbeing by getting them to recall fond memories, which engages and stimulates their minds and 'puts them back in charge'.

And just eight years later their small group has grown into a region-wide organisation as the pair now train professionals at hospitals across Norfolk and Suffolk, have established a volunteer division and most recently have been asked to pass on their important lessons to medical students at the University of East Anglia.

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The Norfolk and Waveney Dementia Alliance has also appointed them as official reminiscence trainers for Norfolk and Suffolk and the pair have been asked to produce a training document that can be used in classes.

Mrs McBain, 48, from Yarmouth, said it was 'fantastic' the group had come so far.

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'We never expected it to take off like this. It's a privilege and it's nice for us to know we're helping more people,' she added.

Mr Warnes, 69, from Martham, said he was 'bewildered' that Memory Joggers had progressed so much so quickly, but was pleased with its growth as he felt reminiscence was important for dementia sufferers.

He added: 'It just puts them back in charge, only for a few minutes perhaps, but that's worth a fortune. And what we like to see is when you come away they're having a yarn with one another, it stimulates them.

'I wish I'd been doing it years ago.

'You learn so much, they tell us things and we tell them things. It's an exchange of knowledge and it perpetuates history. These people have so much knowledge and it's some lovely stuff you hear.'

But despite the strides they have made, the pair have no plans to slow down as they would like to see Memory Joggers expand even further, especially as the number of dementia patients is rising across the country.

Mr Warnes said: 'Dementia is obviously a growing concern to everybody, the numbers are frightening.'

'There will be 25,000 cases in Norfolk alone by 2015 and that's an awful lot of people with dementia,' Mrs McBain added. 'I would like to see, certainly every hospital in East Anglia doing reminiscence, and ultimately I'd like it to go out nationally.'

? More volunteers are needed to join the Memory Joggers. Anyone interested in joining should be chatty but also be willing to listen and patient and prepared to undertake a CRB check. Call Mrs McBain on 07549 177537 for more information.

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