S5 Wider Achievement Dementia Project

As part of a ‘Book Connections’ project funded by the Scottish Libraries and Information Council, 13 S5 Wider Achievement pupils are visiting local care home Angusfield House to spend time reading, playing and chatting with the residents in the Dementia unit over the next few weeks.  

In February we received training from Susan Rendell of Alzheimer Scotland. Susan explained that the term ‘dementia’ is an umbrella term that covers over 100 different types of a specific brain-related illness. She went on to explain the most common – their cause, symptoms and how we could engage with a person suffering from them. This was aimed just right for S5 pupils – there was enough science in it to appeal to their intelligence but also enough humanity and real-life examples for them to understand the impact such a condition can have.

There was a good mix of activities, discussion and presenting which kept us all engaged and motivated throughout the session. One of the most impactful exercises we did was a sensory activity where we wore goggle with the lenses obscured, headphones playing loud traffic noises and thick rubber gloves. We were then asked to pair up socks. This gave us a stark  idea of how it must feel to have poor vision, hearing and limited movement. Susan explained that when you combine this with a brain condition, the world must be a frightening and confusing place but gave us a lot of useful tips, examples and advice that helped assuage any concerns considerably. 

We visited Angusfield House last week where the staff were extremely welcoming, professional and supportive. We were shown around the home by activities co-ordinator Sandra and introduced us to staff and residents. The manager, Bob Fenwick, talked us through the home ethos and layout, the patients needs and what to expect. We only had a short time to spend with the residents that afternoon but all enjoyed a blether and we’re looking forward to returning next week with some Scottish country music and reminiscence materials.

We hope that this will be an experience that gives our pupils the confidence and empathy to communicate and build relationships with people with disabilities, handle difficult situations with maturity and understanding and support each other in facing challenges.