Self Care Workshop: 5/12/22

We were delighted to welcome Olga Chernyavska to run a 1 hour online Self Care workshop for Carers.

Olga encouraged carers to look at their own health care and make sure they were prioritising their own needs to prevent burnout. She posed a series of questions:

At the end of the session Olga asked everyone to go through a self care checklist and we are pleased Olga has given permission for it to be shared here.

Self Care Checklist

On a scale of 1 to 10 where one is 1 don’t do this and 10 is I always do this, score yourself on the following questions:

  • Are you eating regularly (once, twice and/or three times per day, depending on what is normally regular for you. More here)?
  • Are you eating healthily most of the time? (More here)
  • Are you prioritising time to buy the necessary ingredients and cook/prepare them? (More on time management here)
  • Are you taking vitamin D in winter? (More on vitamins here)
  • Are you drinking plenty of water daily? (The NHS recommends drinking 6-8 glasses of fluid a day. More here)
  • Are you exercising regularly? (Walking is an excellent form of exercise and has many health benefits especially if done outside. It is good for your cardiovascular system, it strengthens bones and muscles and helps to manage stress. More here)
  • Are you attending all your medical appointments/checkups?
  • Are you taking your medication as prescribed?
  • Are you receiving massage? (More here)
  • Are you getting adequate sleep? (It is suggested adults need between 7-9 hours per night. While we can get by with less sleep for a short while, if this goes on for too long it starts to cause health implications for brain and body. More here)
  • Are you taking breaks from TV, social media, telephone? (More from the USA here)
  • Do you take time each day to stop and pay attention to the sensations in your body and notice how you are feeling? (By doing this regularly you can start to notice when you are becoming stressed and can look to take action to reduce it. More here)

[Please note: the links above are for information, they were not part of the session.]

It may be worth scanning through the above checklist regularly to ensure you are scoring highly and if you are not, considering what you can do to change things (A pdf version of the checklist is here).

Caring for someone with dementia can take it’s toll on carers. Self care is important and vital not a luxury, as it will enable you to continue to keep caring without detriment to your own health.

Olga is a Mind-Body therapist, interested in the interconnection of the mind and body, preventing ill health and improving wellbeing. For more information about Olga and the online services she provides, please visit her website:

We shall be asking members for their feedback on the session and if they would be interested in a follow-up session.


Constipation is one of those subjects people are less likely to talk about yet one which can have a profound effect on health and well being. As this has cropped up as a worry or concern from time to time by some of our carers, now would be a good time to address this common issue.

As the taste buds and diet of a person with dementia change over time, it is quite likely they will experience constipation at some point.

Searching the internet, an article by Milton Keynes NHS Foundation Trust was found on steps to take to prevent constipation, and good positions to adopt when opening the bowels. The latter includes raising the feet onto a footstool, which as the article says improves the angle of the rectum within the pelvis. The article is here.

If constipation is starting to become a problem then maybe consider a natural remedy. A study was carried out in a care home whereby residents were given a completely natural laxative, known as the Beverley-Travis Natural Laxative Mixture every day and this greatly reduced the incidences of constipation. The mixture was rated as easy or very easy to administer, was cost effective and more effective than prescribed laxatives at producing normal bowel movements. Link to article here.

The recipe for the Beverley-Travis Natural Laxative Mixture containing dried fruits in equal measure can be found here.

In terms of the recipe, it is likely water or orange juice would work.

People with dementia acquire a sweet tooth over time so, as this mixture is sweet, as the study showed, it should be easy to administer.

We suggested this recipe to a family member in the past and they reported it was effective.

IMPORTANT: Constipation can be caused by a myriad of reasons not just dietary problems so as always, if in any doubt please speak to your doctor and seek their advice.


Carers’ Group: 12th August

Educational piece

We started with an introductory piece about Resilience and the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Earlier this year I took part in a four week course on Resilience and found it very helpful. Many of the ideas used in the course I attended were based on CBT & ACT. I asked the group if any of them might have been affected by anxiety, depression and/or stress – they said yes, so I used the linked notes here by way of an introduction to Resilience. I particularly associated with the bus analogy.

We shall revisit some of the helpful exercises and analogies in later sessions.

Discussion topics

Dealing with difficult family members & realising your limitations

A new member of the group told us about the issues she has been trying to resolve, trying to help and support the needs of her mum with dementia – who is in denial, and their primary carer – her brother – who is also in denial. Her story had several similarities to the issues faced by another, long term, member of the group. Our new member had been doing her upmost, with the support of the doctor, but facing a brick wall. As she put it “I feel like I’m on the beach with my feet in concrete, watching my mum drowning in the sea”. The group was very supportive, as ever. They offered suggestions based on tactics that had worked for them, while recognising – you can only do your best. It was great to see people who had joined the group in a very difficult place now being in a position to help others. Our long term member said to me at the end of the session that she was now aware of how far she had come and how much she had achieved, for her mum, when at first she considered the problems she was facing were beyond her abilities to cope. Her mum is now content and safe in a care home, where her daughter can enjoy her visits. Separately, I also provided the linked information from the Alzheimer’s Society here about people with dementia being in denial to the new carer.

Unexpected developments with loved ones

A member said that his dad had suddenly become more lucid, following some hospital treatment. This was good in that he could make some contact with his dad, but it was challenging as his dad asked repeatedly where his wife was (she died three years ago).

Another member said that her husband had a “girlfriend” in his care home. He sometimes thought his wife was his mother. She was happy that he had found a friend, but said the situation was a little unsettling when the three of them were together.

There was another example of a mum who had become friendly with another person in her care home. For a frail old lady, her vice like grip had proved rather too much for her new friend causing bruises and a carer stepped-in to free her. They are now being monitored by the carers.

Those in the group who have loved ones in care homes often say they feel guilt about putting them in the home (however beneficial and supportive it is). They visit the home as often as they can manage. One member said that her mum purely lives in the present – when she visits, her mum is pleased to see her and they get on well – when she leaves her mum forgets about her. So, while our member is constantly concerned about her mum, her mum is not concerned at all.


We had the latest instalment of another care home on-going saga. Following several issues with one particular member of staff there was a Safeguarding Meeting planned. This was in the same week as a review of Continuing Care Funding. Our group member was preparing for more extended discussions (one of her recent review meetings had lasted five hours). The group reminded her of the need to be fully prepared, have notes of previous meeting, take notes at these meetings, obtain copies of the care home documentation and take the opportunity to assertively push the agencies attending to do the best for her mum.

Day Care for young onset

One carer was seeking recommendations for appropriate day care for his wife, who has young onset. He was considering The Meadows day centre, but had noticed on a visit that everyone was old and his wife would not be comfortable with that. It was suggested he could look at Time Court and we said we would speak to another carer who had found an alternative day centre, to find out where it was. It was agreed this was a difficult situation. In the past his wife had tried the young onset group at Age Exchange, but said she did not like it.

An App

We had a recommendation for a jigsaw app for the iPad, called ‘Magic Jigsaw Puzzles’ which had been popular with one of our group’s loved one. It is free (with in-app purchases). We have not tried it, but the link is here.


As always it was a very productive meeting. The new member told us she had never been to a support group before but had found the meeting so beneficial and she would be back next time.






One Day When We Were Young

One of our Carer’s Group members sent us this beautiful video of her mum, which was selected for screening in the Crafts Council’s Real to Reel Film Festival at Picturehouse Central Cinema in London (3 May 2017). She has given her permission for us to share it. She hopes to film some more.

The video is just over 5 minutes, you can see it here





Dementia choir with Vicky McClure

Have you seen “Our Dementia Choir with Vicky McClure”? It really is worth a watch.

Vicky McClure teamed up with the University of Nottingham and specialists from the fields of medicine, music therapy and performance to form a band and choir made up of people with dementia, including former musicians and singers, who rehearsed together for a grand performance.

Most of the evidence concerning music and dementia relates to courses of music therapy. A research review published in 2018, looking at music therapy trials in nursing homes or hospitals, found that the sessions improved symptoms of depression and behavioural problems in people with dementia, but said more research was needed to determine the duration and other effects. Other reviews have found evidence that music therapy can help decrease agitation, and that music therapy is effective for reducing behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia.

These images from the programme show on the left how Vicky’s brain responded to ordinary noises, such as a steam train and on the right how her brain reacted when she heard a piece of music. The extra activity is due to memories generated by the piece of music.

There is an overview of what happened, with lots of links to useful sites, here.

One of the things that was demonstrated was that when music is played it lights up areas all over the brain as music invokes memory recall.

You may find the two BBC episodes on the iPlayer, or follow the link here. [available to 7 June 2019]

This is one of the reasons why our Friendship Group has an hour for singing (and dancing) each time we meet.






Carers’ Group: 11th March

How to Seek Calm In Your Busy Day

We started with an information/education piece as promised at the last session. More information and tips here.

Then we invited group members to discuss issues affecting them. As usual we covered a broad spectrum of topics.

Good care

A member, whose wife had recently died, told us of her wonderful funeral service and the large number of people who came. The care home staff had been very good – another member also said how that home (the Meadows) provided a very good service. Both agreed that an effective care home allows you to enjoy quality time with your loved one.

Support for ex-Service people

The discussion moved on to whether there was special provision for ex-service people. Examples of the support available are:

  • SSAFA (the Armed Forces Charity) has joined forces with Age UK in an initiative to improve the lives of veterans born before 1950, their families and carers. By working jointly and pooling resources, they are hoping to build on their shared expertise and create communities where elderly veterans are well looked after and get the help and support they deserve. You can find out more information here. (Greenwich is not one of the project areas at the moment).
  • The British Legion have 6 care homes, 4 of which have some provision for people with dementia. More information here.

Making a connection

Another member highlighted the need for care home staff to be able to build a rapport with the people they are caring for, particularly to understand how to enable them to live the best lives they can. For one cared-for person this meant a regimented regime, another could not cope with choices, yet another preferred a much more relaxed approach to their care. We considered what to do if someone very strongly objected to water on their heads, how could their hair be cleaned without the use of force? It seemed complicated, until a member suggested dry shampoo – this sharing of ideas is an example of the benefits of a mutual support group.


A carer’s husband had experienced two different approaches from hospital staff. The first group knew him as a fit and well man, who then developed an illness that they anticipated to be temporary. They expected him to be lively and engaged (his normal approach to life). The second group knew him as very ill and confined to bed. Their expectations were very low, even though his illness was temporary. When members of the two groups met, there was an interesting reassessment of what might be expected following recovery from the illness. It was interesting to ponder on how we react to people based on our perception of their abilities and possibilities.

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS)

We had a lively discussion on the need for repeated DoLS assessments when people move between institutions, the resulting delays and issues arising. There is information here and we shall be revisiting the subject at our next meeting.

Respite care

Two members were taking up respite provision for the first time. We await developments with interest.





Lego – coming soon

We are very much group led and respond to feedback, whenever possible. On a recent feedback sheet a member asked if they could have some Lego.

We are able to meet this request! – thanks to the kind and generous donation from our friend and supporter, Cheryl. Our niece and nephew, Amy and Jack, also very kindly donated a small amount of their Lego collection.

Our Lego haul

Depending on its success we will look to source some more – all donations welcome!


  • Lego is a great tool to work with cognitive functions such as identifying colours, shapes, sizes, items, etc.
  • Lego invites creativity into your life. With endless building options. The ideas are endless.
  • Lego exercises motor skills. If you have trouble using your hands then the medium or large size bricks might be more suitable. More about this below.
  • Sitting around a table working a set of Lego invites the social side of everyone to come out and play.
  • A Lego session can promote family bonding. What better way to have some family fun than to open a new set of Lego, find a Lego bargain on eBay, or see what you have stored in your loft. Get as many generations around the table as you can. And, make sure to grab your camera for future generations.

I managed this, while whiling away the time with a cup of tea.


Lego comes in various sizes

  • Traditional Lego bricks, marketed by Lego – these are the ones most of us are familiar with.
  • Duplo blocks, marketed by Lego – these building bricks are twice the length, height, and width of the traditional Lego bricks. They are still compatible with the traditional Legos.
  • Mega Bloks, marketed by Mattel. Mega Bloks comes in both maxi (pieces over 2″) and mini size (pieces 1-2″).

Note: Since some Lego sets are typically aimed at younger children I suggest you buy a small box or bag in which to store them. I don’t think most of us would like the packaging clearly targeting young children. Classic Lego sets have the age range on them 4-99 years!

Mr Lego (Ole Kirk Christiansen) was an interesting chap, read more about him here and on Lego here.


GPS Trackers

There are a variety of devices that use GPS to locate a person. They could give you greater peace of mind, if your loved one likes to go for a walk. The tracker will link to an app which will enable you to see where they are.

You will need to consider some issues before you buy one. These include:

  • Do you have the person’s consent to use the device? (if they are able to give consent)
  • Is “tracking” in your loved one’s best interest? (not to simply “tag” them for your convenience and who will have access to the information?)
  • Will the tracker be worn? (they come in a variety of forms including – fobs for key rings, watches, and insoles for shoes)
  • Would the device be used? (for example – some have panic buttons)
  • The initial cost (which can be high – see links below)
  • The monthly cost (which may be low, but mounts-up over time)

The Alzheimer’s Society has an article on GPS devices here

You can see a variety of trackers on the atdementia site here

An example of a tracker is below. The atdementia site includes more information. Please note: I have no experience of this tracker and am not endorsing it.



Yepzon Freedom GPS tracker

The Yepzon Freedom is a safety product designed for people who are active in and outside of the home. It uses 3G, wifi and GPS for accurate tracking.

Activity can be monitored through a free and easy to use app which works on any smartphone. One device can be tracked with several phones – meaning you can make your ‘circle of care’ as large or as small as you choose. The personal alarm button, when pressed, will immediately alert those with the app that you have raised the alarm and they can check your location on the app and respond.

The Yepzon Freedom is especially reliable since it does not have a power switch from which it could accidentally be turned off. In addition, the battery life of the device can last for weeks depending on the user-specific settings. Its small, stylish and has a handy attaching mechanism, making easy to attach and take with you anywhere. It is shock and spill resistant.

The product comes with built in SIM and 5MG worth of data (approximately 1 month of average use). There is a cost for the ongoing data according to usage; the app is free to download.

Coping with Christmas

Christmas can be overwhelming for many of us but when someone in your family has dementia, this brings different challenges that are very easy to overlook.

Here are some useful tips to think about in the lead up to the festive season (everyone is unique, and you know your family member best, so consider which ones apply).

  • Put decorations up early and slowly. Take a few days or a week so it doesn’t come as a big change to a person’s usual setting
  • Try to spread family visits out, as large numbers of guests and lots of noise can be overwhelming.
  • Create a quiet room, where the person with dementia can go if things get busy. To avoid confusion and anxiety, a cup of tea can be offered away from the bustle and if the loved one wants it, sit with them and chat. Some people with dementia can find large groups overwhelming and can struggle to take part in fast moving conversations. A little separate one-to-one time with family and friends may be better. The person with dementia often values and benefits from gifts of company more than material gifts. The gift of your time is a precious thing.
  • Try to keep a routine — keep meal times at the same time so your loved one can relax, get up and go to bed at the same time
  • Play some familiar old Christmas music and look over old photographs.
  • Photographs can be useful because people with dementia may be living in a different decade. It is common for people to believe they are at a younger point in their lives. If this is the case, use older photos to explain who people are – and don’t get upset if you’re your loved one gets names wrong.
  • Communicate essential changes with family and friends, so they understand what’s going on.Look after yourself and ask for support – a little respite from family and friends can be invaluable so you can enjoy the season too.
  • Think of activities that friends and family can do with the person with dementia and everyone can enjoy.
  • Encourage your loved one to take part in the cooking preparations for Christmas. They will feel useful and it can start conversations about Christmases past (your loved one’s child hood Christmases as well as yours). Reminiscence is vital to increasing wellbeing.
  • At Christmas lunch:hand out crackers when you are going to pull them, limit the amount of crockery and cutlery on the table and use a tablecloth that contrasts with the plates. White-on-white blends in and the person may not know where the plate ends and the cloth begins. Many people with dementia struggle to eat so sitting down to a plate piled high with food can be very off-putting. Instead, make sure they’re given small portions of food they enjoy. If this means they don’t eat exactly the same as everyone else, that’s fine. If they’re still eating the main course when others are tucking into Christmas pudding, that’s fine too, providing they’re still enjoying it.
  • Opening presents: Give the person with dementia time to open the present without feeling rushed. Offer help if needed but don’t try to rush them. If the person does not want to open it yet, that’s fine too. Leave it until later. A person with dementia can become stressed if they feel everyone’s watching them, so keep present-giving calm and casual.
  • Watch out for tripping hazards. Presents and wrapping paper scattered all over the floor can be dangerous for a person who’s frail and prone to stumbling.
  • Practicing religion: If your loved one has always gone to church on Christmas Day, there’s no reason to stop now.
  • Make sure the list of emergency contact e.g. doctor and pharmacy numbers are up to date and don’t forget, just because someone is living with dementia doesn’t mean they can’t join in the fun.

Don’t try to make Christmas totally perfect – you’ll just create more stress for yourself. Instead, try to keep it real, and if things go wrong, try to keep it in perspective. Then when it’s all over give yourself a big pat on the back for trying so hard and doing the very best you could.