Woman's mission to help her mum with dementia regain her love of reading

Sandra Docker used to be an avid reader.

She’d devour romance books, flick through the pages of historical novels and storm through the works of her favourite author – Barbara Taylor Bradford.

When Sandra retired, her family assumed she’d continue to read in her now bountiful spare time.

But a dementia diagnosis led to a challenging chapter for the Birmingham-born pensioner.

Her daughter, Anna Smart, told ‘Mum clung onto her love of reading so much that, even at the start of having dementia, she’d pretend to be reading a book. She would be sat with a book upside down in her own little world.

‘We noticed she’d look at greeting cards and hold them like she was reading a book. Some days she would say a complete sentence she remembered from her cards.’

As Sandra’s condition worsened, Anna got thinking on what she could do to recover her mum’s love of reading.

She found that many books on the market for people with dementia seemed slightly childlike, while others were ‘of the era of the person’ with images and phrasing from their time period.

While the latter does stimulate memories, it is hard for the person reading the book to connect or spur conversations based on the unfamiliar pictures.

Sandra, who is 78, had struggled with mental health problems in the past which masked the symptoms of her diagnosis, meaning she had quickly reached the advance stages of dementia.

Anna, who lives in Bampton, Oxfordshire, decided to take matters into her own hands and create a book tailor-made for her mum.

She hopes it can be used to help others caring for a loved one with advanced dementia.

‘Words Without Stories’ features a squirrel on one page, Big Ben on the next, a vintage steam train on another.

The book is also very light, as Anna had noticed her mum struggle to manage the weight of some other books.

Anna, 49, continued: ‘I wanted the images to be eye-catching because some days my mum might not want to read, she will still want to look at a nice clear image. 

‘And that might be the same situation for others going through their own dementia journey. There is a nice picture of beach huts which could lead you to talking about beaches, holidays – the cost of beach huts, anything!

‘It can be difficult to think of something to say to someone who is giving nothing back due to their condition, so hopefully makes things easier for the person caring for someone with dementia.’

The biggest barrier to people seeking a diagnosis is thinking memory loss is a normal sign of ageing. @DrAmirKhanGP is here to explain the difference.

If you’re worried about yourself or a loved one, check your symptoms here: #DementiaActionWeek

For Anna, she is always looking for new ways to allow her mum to have agency of her own in spite of her dementia diagnosis.

Sandra lives in a care home near to Anna and her husband in Oxfordshire and, like so many times in the past, is now ‘always smiling’ when she has a book in her hand.

Words Without Stories is recommended for people with advanced dementia. The book is available on Amazon, and £1 from every book sold will be donated to Alzheimer’s Society throughout May 2023.

You can buy the book here or find out more about Anna’s work for people with dementia here

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

For more stories like this, check our news page.

Source: Read Full Article