I was running my weekly group in Cartref Care Home, and there were six people in attendance. There were one or two people that were happily chatting away about the Autumnal poems we were reading, talking about how it’s nice when all the leaves start to fall off the trees, and how it’s good to talk about the cold, windy weather whilst sat in a cosy living room! After reading four poems, Jim (who previously had barely said a word) started to read the first line of ‘The Leaves’ (the first poem we’d read together) aloud. ‘The leaves had a wonderful frolic. I like that. I can really picture it’. I asked if he’d like to re-read the poem to us, and in a thick Yorkshire accent said ‘Yes, I think I will.’ He proceeded to read not one, not two, but three more poems beautifully! It was lovely to hear.
So lovely, in fact, that Thelma started chuckling, and told us about how her teacher at school used to make the class read out poems aloud together. To aid them keeping rhythm, the teacher used to stand up and count the time waving her arms like a conductor, causing the class to get the giggles. After telling the story, giggling herself, she said ‘I’ve only just remembered that now.’
‘The group really encourages the residents to talk to each other – to share their memories and experiences and gives them the time and space to reflect. My Mum loves it! She is usually very quiet and doesn’t tend to interact with the other residents – this is the first time I’ve seen her offer her opinions in a group, and really engage with something instead of just sitting in front of the telly!’
Ann, Daughter of resident in Cartref Care Home.
Maple and Cedar Wards are situated in Park House, at North Manchester General Hospital as part of the funding we received as part of the SHA North West Mental Health project, working with older people with advanced Dementia, and other mental health issues.
L is a lady on Maple Ward who for the first two groups was very negative, distressed and quite low. When talking about the poems, she would make unrelated, negative comments regarding her health and her family. After reading Elizabeth Jennings’ poem ‘Friendship’ she recalled that her best friend when she was young was called Iris. ‘We used to do everything together’ she tells us, smiling. ‘She lived two streets away and I would call on her after school and we used to play in the park at the top of the road’. Her mood was considerably lifted, smiling and laughing with the rest of us in the group. For the first time in the group, her focus was on the poems and the memories, not on her worries.
‘The service users really enjoy our weekly poetry session. After the group has finished we sit and have another cup of tea discussing the various themes that the poems bring up further and continuing to reminisce. It is a nice period of calm for the group.’
Julie, Support Worker, Maple Ward.
The Reader magazine offers a mix of new poetry and fiction, classic and neglected works and interviews with leading literary figures.
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