Liverpool Museums open up their successful dementia awareness training to families and friends

“Museums are experts at looking after memories,” says Carol Rogers, explaining the natural fit between National Museums Liverpool (NML) and its unique dementia awareness training programme, House of Memories.

The programme, created in 2012, sees NML’s staff delivering an imaginative and accessible “whole community” dementia-awareness experience to health and social care professionals. Rogers, NML’s executive director for education and visitors, explains: “House of Memories has always been about promoting compassion, respect and dignity in care to support people living with dementia, their carers and their families.

“The idea was to develop memory activities and resources inspired by our museums’ world-class collections. Using items in this way gives a greater understanding of how information about a person’s history and life experience can be a valuable tool to fostering communication.”

And now the programme has been developed, with the support of Liverpool city council, to include a Buddy Day training scheme for friends, family and volunteer carers. It has been designed to enable greater understanding in the community of different ways of working with and supporting people living with dementia. Since its launch in April 2015, 500 people have taken part.

It was absolutely fantastic in every way. House of Memories has been the best training I have ever participated in. Thank you for opening my eyes to see the issues surrounding dementia in a new way.”        Buddy Day participant 2015

As well as interactive Buddy Day training using creative resources such as theatrical performance, there is also a memory suitcase loan service and an app, My House of Memories.

All three elements were developed through a user-centred approach, informed by people living with dementia and their carers,” adds Rogers. “For example, the memory suitcase contains objects, memorabilia and photographs and multi-sensory items to help people connect with their local history and environment."

“There are general suitcases containing lots of memorabilia about Liverpool, such as the overhead railway, and we’ve also just introduced six themed suitcases including African and Caribbean memories, seafarers and dockers, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender heritage.”

The My House of Memories app, which was shortlisted for a 2015 Northern Digital Award, has been developed to stimulate memory and conversation and maintain family connections for people who have an early-age diagnosis. The app features a large range of items from 1920 to 1980 and users can save their favourite items to their own memory tree to be shared with friends and family.

People living with dementia are people first, condition second. Their lives are important. They can still live full, active lives.”      Buddy Day participant 2015

The House of Memories model is also making a difference to lives outside of Liverpool. In the north of England, Salford, Bury, and Sunderland secured Department of Health funding to work with the model in 2013, and Birmingham, Leicester and Nottingham have all hosted training workshops in 2014. The south -east has also seen digital dementia awareness training based around the House of Memories app in Bexley and at two venues in London. To date, more than 9,000 professionals from across the UK have been trained.

Buddy programme
The Buddy programme enables life experiences and histories to be shared. Photograph: Pete Carr/Liverpool city council

Rogers adds: “The Buddy programme promotes wellbeing and resilience within the family and wider care community, and enables life experiences and histories to be shared.

“We strongly believe that the wider House of Memories model can play a significant national role in connecting and supporting thousands of people who are living with dementia. Our focus is to encourage people to live well with the memories they have, rather than the memories lost.”

“I would love all those people who say people with dementia can’t learn anything new to see us using the app ... to see the joy on their faces because they realise they can learn.”                                                                               Buddy Day participant 2015

To read the full article click here: The Guardian 10/08/15

Follow House of Memories on Twitter @house_memories

Visit Liverpool Museums House of Memories website at​

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  • 13 August 2015