Today, we hear from Anna McCracken (TRO Community Engagement Coordinator) and her experience of reading with people with Dementia.
Moments like these…
It is always one or two moments that strike me. Moments when someone says something, or looks a certain way, or laughs, or tenderly remembers a loved one – these are the moments that strike me when I’m reading poetry to people suffering from dementia. Distinctly human moments.
The activities coordinator comments to me after one session that she was watching C during the session. C cannot speak and rarely gets a chance to engage with other people. But she listens. And as I read the poems she gazes in my direction, and as others share thoughts and memories she looks at them, interacting with them, smiling, communicating without words.
F and F are like a double act. They are hilarious people – people who get through life with humour and sardonic wit. The poems enable them to do this – and they spark off each other, often teasing me for being too soppy or naive about issues of the heart. I laugh with them. They act as great levellers in the group.
Suddenly, at the end of one session, H pipes up. She’s been listening to the poems intently and she slowly begins to recite a poem herself: Grow old along with me! / The best is yet to be / The last of life, for which the first was made. The following week I bring an extract from the poem, by Robert Browning, and we discuss intently whether the first part of life is made for the last. People disagree a bit about this.
But these are the moments that make my dementia group the highlight of my week. The human moments that dignify people and allow them to communicate, to value words, eye contact, relationships – all the while the cruel ageing process is denying them so many other things.