As my lovely colleague Magdalena wrote earlier in the week, it’s the simple things that can make a difference. A smile and a ‘hello’ can make a positive impact on someone’s day. A handwritten note or card with a personal message or a phone call just to check-in and, again, say ‘hello’ can help to make someone smile.
I’m a great believer in the positive impact words can have on wellbeing. Over the past few years I have spent a lot of time working in the community as a words for wellbeing facilitator running sessions for people living with dementia and their carers; elderly people in day centres; and women affected by domestic abuse. But it’s about focusing on the person as an individual and I’ve seen at first-hand, the way in which words – whether poetry, short stories or just a good old blether – can help to draw people together. Most importantly it allows them the opportunity to share their stories. And we all have a story or two to tell . . .
I use a lot of poetry when working with people living with dementia, and their carers too, because it’s accessible and of course uses rhythm and rhyme. We have had some great fun using poems about food, picnics and being rebels! Then we have had a go at writing our poems or creative writing together. Which is, for me, where the magic happens. The simple act of just having a chat about food or a picnic they might have been on allows people to express their likes, dislikes, opinions and gives an insight to them as an individual. Sometimes we come up with individual poems, other days we write a group poem and there are days where we don’t write anything at all. We just have a good, old chat.
And the most important part of this? It’s definitely the process of just being there together and listening to each other. It’s wonderful watching someone smile as they remember a picnic they went on as a child when they buried their shoes in the sand and then couldn’t find them. Or the time a man started to talk about his life as a farmer and how long he spent singling turnips. There have been tales about cakes and soup and stories that are not to be repeated! There has been laughter, smiles and sometimes tears. But these sessions have been bonding and helped us get to know each other and ourselves and remind us that we are all individuals with stories to share.