Home uses TV classic This is Your Life to help dementia sufferers

Nancy McKeever  with Anne Marson, a care worker at St Andrews Care Home, Uphall. Picture Ian Rutherford
Nancy McKeever with Anne Marson, a care worker at St Andrews Care Home, Uphall. Picture Ian Rutherford
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Dementia sufferers at a Lothians care home are reliving their memories with the help of TV classic This is Your Life.

St Andrews Court Care Home in Uphall, West Lothian, has enlisted the help of friends, family and volunteers to create versions of the big Red Book, made famous by Eamonn Andrews and Michael Aspel.

The volumes are filled with photos, stories and other memorabilia which help take residents back in time.

Creating a physical record of important moments, feelings and experiences allows residents to enjoy their memories time and again, in spite of their illness, believes care home manager Helen McLeod.

She said: “The residents love talking about the things they’ve put in the book, because it transports them back to those happy and familiar times, prompting their memory as and when it needs it. The project is still in its infancy, but so far it seems as if this therapy is really helping them, not only to relive the memories they have a firm grasp of, but to rediscover memories that have slipped away.”

The project took hold when West Lothian College social care student Scott Waterson was presented with the idea – developed by Helen – during a 12-week placement at the care home.

All eight of the residents who have been taking part in the This is Your Life programme have been responding well to the treatment, including Nancy McKeever, 80, who has lived at St Andrews Court since 2006.Nancy suffers from the late stages of dementia and struggles to remember key events from her past.

But through communication with her family and friends, staff have been able to piece together some of her earliest memories.

These memories are not always happy ones – Nancy’s father died in 1944, on her 12th birthday, while fighting in the Second World War in France.

As a result Nancy was required to become a key breadwinner, something which saw her take advantage of her musical talents.

She came from a musical family and used to play the accordion at different venues and social events to earn some extra money to support her mother and four brothers.

Now Nancy regularly attends music therapy sessions and even though she can no longer play an instrument, she can be seen tapping her hands and feet along in time.

Nancy’s son Tony McKeever, 49, said: “When we were coming up with stories to put in the book, Mum’s brother, Reggie, was telling me stories I had never even heard of! It was so uplifting to hear about my mum as a young woman, and it made me feel both proud and sad not to have known her then.

“The This is Your Life book gives me, and my own children, a chance to get to know a bit about how she turned into the woman she became.”