Memories triggered with help of special tool-kits in Cork

A hugely successful initiative to trigger memories and conversation among dementia, Alzheimer’s and elderly patients should be rolled out nationally, organisers insist.

‘Music and Memories’ boxes have been specially designed for hundreds of nursing home residents in a pilot programme by Cork City Libraries.

The first initiative of its kind in Ireland has had such a positive response that it could be replicated across the county – and eventually, nationwide.

Funded by Cork City Council, 10 different ‘memory tool kits’ contain 20 old photographs of the city from the 1950s-70s, 15 CDs featuring music residents would have listened to in their youth, dementia-friendly books and a jigsaw.

“These are designed to provoke and spark memories because people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s have a problem staying in the present,” said Margaret O’Sullivan, Executive Librarian at the Rory Gallagher Music Library in Cork city.

“People sometimes try to pull them into the present, but this can be difficult and not helpful in some cases.

“Showing them old pictures of Cork, they can have conversations, they ask each other if they remember stores being at certain locations and talk about musicians and bands from that period of time.

“They are having sing-songs in the nursing homes while listening to the music we place in the boxes.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of people getting to see these boxes and it helps each one of them enormously to engage and connect with each other.

“I think there’s great potential for it to be extended across the country.”

The programme is being showcased as part of #YourCouncilDay on July 5, which is highlighting the role of county and city councils in supporting people in their daily lives.

In place in 10 Cork city nursing homes, the scheme may also be offered to those who are housebound in an effort to combat isolation.

Having worked for over three decades in the library service, Ms O’Sullivan said there was a need for such an initiative.

“I’ve had a lot of people coming into the library asking for music for relatives suffering with memory loss, we have a vast collection of music from this era and we’re very lucky we have a music library here.

”It was like a bolt of lightning when I realised what could be done.”

Supported by Senior Executive Librarian, Patricia Looney, and City Librarian David O’Brien, Ms O’Sullivan secured funding for the pilot through Cork City Council innovation grants.

She worked alongside activity co-ordinators in each nursing home, helping to match the boxes’ contents with the specific interests of the residents.

The contents of the Music and Memories boxes are replaced each month, shared between nursing homes and while available to every resident, are specifically tailored for those with memory loss.

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