Norfolk Library Services for Older People

In Norfolk we were compelled to become more dementia friendly when, in the autumn of 2012, the Norfolk and Suffolk Dementia Alliance commissioned researchers at UEA to carry out research in to the needs of Dementia Sufferers in Norfolk as part of a programme towards making Norfolk and Suffolk Dementia Friendly.

local leisure facilities, library services, bus services and local councils can do more to be friendly to service users with Dementia’

There are estimated to be nearly 15,000 people with Dementia living in Norfolk – 8,000 of whom currently are undiagnosed. Increasingly, people with Dementia are living for much longer in the community, and that will mean that, increasingly, more and more of our customers, and potential customers, will have Dementia. We already have some customers who have Dementia. We certainly have many potential customers who have Dementia. 1 in 20 people over 65 rising to 1 in 5 people over 80 has a form of Dementia in Norfolk.

Dementia Friendly Norfolk Library Services

We want to

Make it easier for people with Dementia to use our service, and supporting staff to serve them more effectively has a clear benefit: it will enable us to maintain our existing customers who might have, or be developing, Dementia. If they do not find it easy to use the library they are likely to stop using it

We know that

Low levels of public understanding of the condition often lead to poor quality of life for sufferers of Dementia, leading to feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression.

In 2012, the Prime Minister challenged communities to work towards becoming ‘Dementia friendly’ to support people with Dementia to live well in the community.

National research carried out by the Alzheimer’s Society revealed:

As well as demanding improvements in diagnosis and care of the condition people with Dementia said they wanted to

  • Pursue hobbies and interests
  • Go out more
  • Make more use of local facilities
  • Help others in the community by volunteeringThey want
  • Mainstream services to become more accessible for people with Dementia to enable them to carry on doing the same things that they always have done,
  • Places that help them find their way around and feel safe
  • To be able to keep in touch with people and feel that they belongThe Alzheimer’s Society plan to recruit one million “Dementia friends” who have completed some training and can spread the word. They wear a forget-me-not badge. They want to recruit Dementia Friends in every community – in every hospital ward, post office, place of worship, and on every street.

Here is some more information about Norfolk Libraries and Reminiscence, Dementia and other activities

  1. Dementia best practice
  2. Shared reading – read aloud groups
  3. Cognitive stimulation therapy

In relation to reminiscence – there’s information in the dementia best practice document but see also:

We have some other regular sessions in libraries in the county which support older people, organised by library staff but run by volunteers.

  • Lady 84 years –at start of the 6 week programme said she was sad, always worrying. She was the first lady to arrive at session 1, and told me she was terrified – didn’t think she’d be able to do it. She had rung the previous week to say she didn’t think she should be coming but Kerry (library manager) had managed to persuade her to come. We’ve chatted since and she lost her husband a few years before and has been pretty isolated, too afraid to go out on her own. She came along on the second week and announced that she wasn’t feeling nervous about it anymore, and showed everyone the colouring she’d done in her book. I told her if she finished that one, I’d give her another! She’s also started a keep fit class.
  • Board games afternoons
  • Drop in and Draw (an informal session for people to sketch and doodle with colouring materials)
  • and we have Knit and Knatter.

All of these sessions are free and are drop-in sessions so people do not have to commit to coming every single week.

Lots of our libraries have friendship groups – mainly attended by older people feedback from one of these:

Lady in 60’s lost husband year ago came in to join wasn’t able to talk without crying. Said felt isolated, lonely – someone told her to join library and find out about activities. Told her about our friendly group, invited to come along but when came in member of staff introduced her to others who come along regularly. Even after first visit she left library with shoulders straight and smile on face – Now 6 months later she is part of scrabble club friendship group, writers groups. Has made friends who she also meets outside library and one lady she met now they go shopping together and share lifts.

In addition, we have a monthly “Come Singing” at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library – great benefits for people with dementia and people recovering from a stroke and are working to improve their speech. Report back about people that attend:

” One gentleman who brings his wife to the sessions told me that as her dementia has progressed, coming along to singing sessions is the only thing that appears to bring any enjoyment to her life.

While at last week’s session I noticed this couple again, plus a father and son and a mother and daughter, all living with the effects of dementia. It was heart lifting to watch them singing and laughing together. It’s not often that an activity aimed at someone with dementia gives equal enjoyment and involvement for the carer who brings them”

With thanks to Janet Holden, Norfolk Library Service.

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