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  • Writer's pictureDJ

Remember When...?

Our friends have led rich, full lives. Let’s keep those memories alive.

Longer lives bring greater opportunities, and also a greater susceptibility to degenerative illness. There are upwards of 50 million dementia sufferers in the world today. Their stories and the stories of those who care for them may be rooted in sadness but they offer a reminder of what it means to be loved.

The Alzheimers Society recently shared the story of Manchester couple Jim and Joan Pearson. Married for over sixty years, their final decade together was by far the hardest. Joan began to suffer from memory loss, which eventually led to a diagnosis of Alzheimers. When she was no longer able to recognise her children or grandchildren, Jim used photoshopped images of the family to make wooden figurines of each of them. When one came to visit, Jim prepared by using their figurine as the focus of a conversation, gently and persuasively reminding Joan of what the person meant to her and what she meant to them. When we lose a piece from our memory jigsaw, if we’re very, very lucky, someone will love us enough to help us try to replace it.

Along with the love of their families, Alzheimers patients in Swansea can count on the support of the care professionals who work tirelessly to enhance their quality of life. There’s no better example, in Swansea or anywhere else, than the team at the Hollies in Pontarddulais.

Manager Helen Davies sets the tone, with admirable support from her leadership team of Tracey Davies and Joanne Ford. Residents come from a wide range of backgrounds and bring a wealth of life experience, just as you’ll find in any community. If you knock on a door in your street and speak to a neighbour you don’t know well, you’ll learn things about the places they’ve been and the people and things they’ve loved that will surprise and stimulate you. At the Hollies, the constant warmth and respect of dedicated staff reminds residents that they are valued.

Care Officer Alison Morris works with the residents day in, day out and brings joy and fun to their daily routines. The management team encourage this positive environment and welcome any initiatives that bring further reminders of the interesting lives the people in their care have led.

In the words of Joanne Ford:

“Our residents have led wonderful lives, full of love and the spirit of adventure. Reminding them of this isn’t just good for them, it’s interesting for their friends at the Hollies and it’s enriching for the staff. I’m proud to know these people and be a part of their lives.”

We’re proud to be a part of their lives too, and the People’s Library is calling on our network of talent to shine a light on some of the moments that have made those lives so special.

Regular readers will remember the photography exhibition that launched in November 2022 showcasing the work of our friends at the St Phillips Wednesday Club. The overwhelmingly positive response to the photos led to the scheduled four-week exhibition at Swansea’s Grand Theatre being extended to eight weeks.

With the group eager to spread their wings with another creative project, they’ve kindly offered to work with us on visual aids for our friends at the Hollies. Family trees, collages and individual memory books will feature images of places, people and achievements across the decades. The St Phillips group are giving this new project the same creative skill and attention to detail that made their photo exhibition a success, and look forward to bringing the same pleasure to their new friends at the Hollies that they brought to the many visitors to the Grand Theatre in November, December and January.

The third group of people giving their time and expertise on this project have crossed oceans and borders to get to South Wales and have set their hearts on being as supportive to their neighbours as they possibly can. Sara Madi and Roxana and Nathaly de Buitrago are well-known in Cwmbwrla. In 2022 all three won Community Champion awards and their people skills and organisational skills are adding value to a range of social projects around the city.

Over the coming months, Sara, Roxana and Nathaly will work with the St Phillips group to make the Hollies project a reality. Together they’ll remind people of the good lives they’ve led. They’ll be doing it for everyone who’s had a piece of their jigsaw taken away, and every loved one who’s tried to put it back.

Watch this space.


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