Helping veterans with dementia live full lives

With an ageing ex-Service population, dementia is an increasing concern for The Royal British Legion. Find out how your poppy helps veterans' with dementia live life to the full.

“Shall we do some line dancing?” asks Senior Care Assistant Leanne to 89-year old Envis. She looks up and laughing answers “Ooh no, my knickers might fall down!” 

She is one of the latest members to join the Poppy Lodge residents, a specialist dementia unit in the heart of the Warwickshire countryside.

Part of The Royal British Legion residential home, Galanos House, the lodge cares for military veterans and their spouses who suffer from various degrees of dementia.

At the heart of this vibrant home is the cafe, set up to look like a 1950s diner where residents can help themselves to tea and coffee.

Music from all eras compliments the bustling activity surrounding the busy residents, who may be either baking a cake or having their shoes polished.

Baking is just one of the many activities provided in the lodge; in the photo above Entertainments Manager Craig Edser helps a resident measure out butter.

Craig, 40, has been working at the lodge for 3 years. He started at the lodge as a maintenance engineer and quickly realised he had a natural interest in the residents.

“I just love being around them and making them happy. I have a connection with these people and that’s really important as each resident here is completely unique and can change every day.”

 

“It’s all about role playing, we have to be able to listen and react to whatever they say.”

Wall art is a way of invoking memories which can provide reassurance and something for people to relate to when they struggle with their short term memory.

“Whatever reality they feel they are in at the time is what we have to sustain. It may last for minutes, hours or days so it involves a lot of role playing,” says Leanne as she and fellow care assistant Theresa finish their rounds.

Family photographs and memorabilia fill a resident’s room.

“People think we are lying to them,” says Theresa. “But we are just making them as comfortable as we can. This is the reality they are in and it’s very distressing to try and convince them otherwise.”

As the residents finish their tea, Theresa heads back out into the lodge “It’s non-stop here. The shift goes very quickly!”

Colourful wall art is part of the treatment process within Poppy Lodge. It provides a visual space for residents to feel part of a community and form friendships.

The building is split into corridors each one of which is made to resemble a street and decorated with event that residents may remember.

Questions such as ‘when was your wedding day’ and ‘the name of your first pet’ all compliment the style of treatment within the lodge.

Wendy Mudarres surrounds herself with pictures of her loved ones. Residents often personalise their living space to make it feel more like home.

As people living with dementia lose their short term memory they often access their long term memory and have vivid recollections from childhood and their early life. Each door is decorated with family portraits and name tags with a room number and designed to feel like home to each resident. 

Outside the lodge the residents’ pet goats are making the most of the autumn sun.

“That’s William and Kate. They like to go out and feed them and take a lot of comfort from them,” says Craig.

As well as the pets, the Galanos gardening club also offers a chance for the residents to re kindle their green fingers.

“They get a lot of pleasure from the garden,” states Beverly Mumford, the garden club manager, as she passes some roses over to resident Margaret for a sniff. “It’s a kind of therapy for them and gets them out in the fresh air.”

Bev with a resident in the garden, enjoying a bumper harvest.

Colette, a resident of Galanos enjoys the sunshine above, and below Craig takes time to polish Sarah’s shoes before she heads off to the main house for a church service.

As the last hymn is sung the kitchen staff bring out the most desired refreshment in the house - tea.

The residents make their way back to the lodge and the sounds of the Carpenters fill the air and the gentle chatter of residents continues.

“When you walk through the doors you never know what to expect. But every day is different and I love what I do,” says Craig as he pops a DVD into the player ready for a film which sees one resident lasting a few minutes before nodding off and enjoying an afternoon nap.

Staff at Poppy Lodge are on hand 24/7 and work with the residents to ensure they feel at home as many take time to adjust to their new surroundings.

"Most of the time the people here just need affection and reassurance, so that’s what we do.” Craig Edser, Entertainment Manager

All photos copyright to The Royal British Legion / Alison Baskerville.

Support the poppy Appeal

Helping us to provide ground-breaking care for veterans living with dementia, giving them back dignity and purpose, is just one of the reasons to wear a poppy each November.

There are thousands of other stories behind the poppy. Please share them to show people how The Royal British Legion poppy is both a symbol of Remembrance and one of hope for our recent veterans and serving men, women and their families.

Explore other ways the poppy helps to support our Armed Forces community.

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