#Mentalhealth week 3: the NHS ‘memory pub’ for people with dementia

Fiona Reyes Johnson, Occupational Therapist at 3 Beatrice Place (3BP) in Kensington as part of the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL), came upon the idea of a ‘pub’ for people with dementia, in which service users could reminisce about good times spent socialising in public houses.

The therapies team further discussed the idea with 3BP residents and it was decided that a pub, the 'King’s Arms’, aimed at aiding memory for dementia patients, should be trialled. The pub’s main purpose is to provide a space for reminiscence therapy for people with dementia. As long term memories for people with dementia often remain intact, reminiscing is a great tool for wellbeing and to help make a valuable connection between the past and present.

In addition to reminiscence, the therapy provides opportunities for sensory and cognitive, stimulation and a space for patients to socialise and tell stories, both with each other and their friends and family. The informal atmosphere allows for familiar activity to take place in a secure and safe environment – which in turn has also strengthened relationships between staff and relatives.

All drinks have 0% alcohol content (an NHS rule), however getting the taste of beer, wine and spirits is an important factor for reminiscence and sensory stimulation. Staff at 3BP have since become experts in creating cocktails!

With the help of local pubs and other members of the local community, every effort has been made to create an authentic experience, from the sound of a pub environment playing through speakers to a safety dart board.

Other considerations include soft snacks to allow for poor dental and reduced swallowing function, specially designed signs to allow for sight impairments, and a layout that allows for wheelchair turning circles.

Staff encourage residents to select their drinks, which are served at the table, and take time to engage and converse with patients.

“It is sometimes hard to know whether a resident enjoys something or not as they might not be able to verbalise or perhaps what they say is not relevant to the here and now. However, when a person that doesn’t verbalise is alert, rather than asleep slumped on their chair, or a usually agitated resident is able to hold a conversation and engage with people for two hours whilst enjoying a drink with a smile on her face, this tells us that it works” said Fiona Reyes Johnson.

“In future, we are looking to secure more concrete feedback on the therapeutic effects of the pub, but for now, the smiles and laughter of the residents is enough for us to believe that it is a beneficial activity that is worth all the sweat and hard work that has gone into its creation.”

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