Young penpals bring cheer to patients with dementia in Cragside Court

Posted on Tue, 29/01/2019

Cherished memories flooded back to patients in Cragside Court when they received a special delivery of handwritten letters from their new friends at Washingwell Primary School.

Hearing that some of the patients did not have family to visit them over Christmas, caring pupils in Y6 stepped in to spread some festive cheer.  

They described in wonderful detail the fun events they had been taking part in at school, the Christmas traditions which they enjoy with their families and shared their favourite jokes. 

Staff then read the letters to patients who enjoyed hearing about the children’s adventures while also helping them to recall their own memories of family celebrations.

Cragside Court provides specialist mental healthcare for older patients with dementia at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead. It reopened in November following a £750,000 redevelopment that resulted in a wide range of improvements for patients and enables staff to offer much better care in a modern, safe and therapeutic environment.

The penpal scheme is the latest initiative from Cragside activities facilitator, Linda Brennan, who aims to ensure patients have access to a varied schedule of meaningful activities designed to provide enjoyment and relaxation.

Cragside nurse, Roxanne Forster, then got in touch with Washingwell School and staff were delighted to get involved.

Roxanne said: “We thought the letters would be a great way to bring back memories for patients and encourage them to talk about their lives.

“The children’s letters were beautiful and they really brought some fantastic Christmas cheer to the whole unit.

“The patients were laughing at the jokes and their stories triggered a lot of memories and started new conversations. Reminiscence activities like this help to bring back happy memories and also enable staff to find out more about patients, which helps us to provide better and more personal care.

“We would like to thank all the children for the time and effort they put into their writing and we look forward to receiving their next letters.”

Washingwell Year 6 teacher, Leanne Weatherburn, said: “When the children heard that some of the patients didn’t have any family to visit at Christmas, they quickly wanted to get involved.

“Writing for a purpose is part of the curriculum and so this was a great opportunity to show the children how their writing can make a real difference to someone else’s life.

“The children were delighted to receive a lovely card and some sweets to thank them for their loving words and we are very proud of how thoughtful and caring our children are.”

Richard Harrison, clinical lead in Old Age Psychiatry, said: “This is a wonderful initiative. For patients with dementia, being in hospital and away from their home environment is particularly difficult and they really appreciated that the pupils of Washingwell Primary had thought of them and taken time to write.

“It is often the case that patients’ memories of the past are clearer than those of the present and news of the pupils’ Christmas activities rekindled happy and comforting memories of the Festive Season.

“We would also hope that by linking with our community, we can increase the awareness of dementia and services that are available for people with this condition.”

To find out more about Cragside Court click here

 

 

 

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