Sheila and Michael’s story: Social prescribing and dementia

We all have the power to improve our brain health at any stage of life and for those living with dementia, support to remain physically and socially active may enable them to stay independent for longer.

As social creatures’ humans have an inbuilt need to be with others and mounting evidence suggests that staying socially active as we age can help to keep our brains healthy. Alongside staying social, evidence also suggests that remaining physically active and engaging in creative pursuits can also improve the health of our brains. We all have the power to improve our brain health at any stage of life and for those living with dementia, support to remain physically and socially active may enable them to stay independent for longer.

In the photo are: Sheila and Vicky Lomax, a social prescriber with Petrus and Keith, a trainee social worker.

Kingsway Medical Practice hosts a weekly dementia arts and gardening session run jointly by the practice, MIND Rochdale and Petrus. The project is jointly funded through MIND and the national green social prescribing programme, called Nature for Health in Greater Manchester. The session is also actively involved with Dementia United drawing down support and knowledge.

People living with dementia, and their carers, are referred through GPs and Rochdale MIND. The purpose of the project is to offer stimulating and enjoyable activities to provide a break from the challenges of dementia. The programme also offers a break for carers. Activities are based around each participant’s Health and Wellbeing plan which identifies what is important to them.

The group allows people to express who they are, respecting that and allow them to enjoy that space. Understanding that dementia is a challenging condition and providing space for when things are not working for example lack of sleep, confusion etc. Very often, people seem to be able to lose their symptoms for a couple of hours.

Sheila has a diagnosis of vascular dementia and has been attending the weekly dementia art and gardening session for over six months. It is noticeable that Sheila is a people’s person and likes to entertain. She is very involved in the activities but what makes her happy is to see other people laugh and be happy. The session has provided Sheila with an opportunity to be amongst people again and to be able to talk about her past quite often resulting in spontaneous dances to bag pipes. We recently did a circus session, she completely stole the show.

Sheila’s son Michael is her full-time carer. Michael has benefited from the session too and has built a support network. We have seen very visible changes in Michael’s own demeanor, looking a lot more relaxed, happier and more chatty. Graeme Hill, Link Worker at Kingsway Medical Practice

Greater Manchester ‘Nature for Health’ is one of seven national ‘green social prescribing programmes’ testing and learning how we can best connect people with nature for their mental wellbeing. Greater Manchester’s local and regional learnings will inform the development of regional nature-based social prescribing services and national policy at the end of the two year pilot in 2023.

When my mother was diagnosed with vascular dementia roughly 6 years ago, I had to give up working full-time in order to care for her. At the time, we knew our lives would change dramatically and my main focus was ensuring my mother had a good quality of life in her final years. Now, my mother and I receive support from Rochdale & District Mind,  HMR Circle and Rochdale adult care services.

My mother thoroughly loves attending the weekly Mind meetings and arts and gardening group activities and for the whole week looks forward to attending the next one. The activities are incredibly important for my mother’s (and my) mental health. It provides us with a little time apart from each other whilst entertaining and occupying my mother’s mind with fun activities within a safe, relaxing and friendly atmosphere.

Fortunately mental health has less stigma attached. However, I know from experience it can be hard to ask for help and many people who need support don’t get it, or don’t realise they need it. We have been shown compassion and love without judgement. The activities are fun, physical and mentally healthy and provide us  with the opportunity to meet others and make great friends. We strongly believe that without this support our lives would be much worse. Thank you. Michael

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