STML SSB posterLast summer, in between meetings I nipped into our local Farm Shop, to grab some things for the family supper. Whilst doing so I was approached by a local resident, John Osborne, who wanted a quick word. John explained that he was interested in running some sessions in the village to try to increase awareness and understanding of dementia. His hope was to encourage Thornham to become a Dementia Friendly Village.

It’s interesting that sometimes it is the random conversations that really spark something. My nursing past, and my priestly present made me instantly interested ,and a dialogue between John and I began.

John, is a qualified social worker and a musician. He has worked in health and social care for over 35 years, including running his own care company. His particular interest in dementia arose after caring for his own father for many years through a whole journey of progression of dementia. John currently runs a training company, JoCo Learning & Development, who provide social care training including specialist dementia courses and a business development programme supporting organisations to be Dementia Friendly. John also volunteers for the Alzheimer’s Society as a Dementia Friends Champion.

John: Anybody can take steps to become a Dementia Friend, its about understanding more about the condition, and the things we can all do to support people living with dementia and those who care for them. We offer training and support to organisations to consider their customers, environments and their staff who may be caring for someone with dementia or have a diagnosis themselves.

With the support of a small grant from Thornham United Charities six sessions have taken place in the village, including the Soup and Sandwiches Lunch in November. To date this has resulted in 72 people becoming dementia friends.

I think what has inspired me about working with John, is his incredibly positive attitude. There are certain subjects that we as a culture avoid publically: ‘money’ and ‘death’ are two examples. Cancer used to be another, but dementia is definitely still on the banned list. As a nurse I learnt that facing up to a diagnosis is the first step to a healthy approach to the rest of life. As a Christian I understand two particular things: that our suffering God allows us to see possibilities even in suffering, and that God is intensely interested in every individual, whatever limitations that individual lives with. We are all children of God in God’s eyes, and precious, so surely I need to be following Jesus’ example and help meet the challenges of all stages of life with compassion and with cheerfulness, finding what is good there.

John also runs a charity, ‘musicworks’, which promotes all forms of music. The charity also hosts a series of ‘Music In Care’ projects including ‘Soundtrack to My Life’, a toolkit he designed using personalised music in a therapeutic way to support people living with dementia and ‘My Music Oasis’ which uses personalised music for carers. A third toolkit followed, ‘My Story in Music’, a legacy project using music at end of life.

“As a musician I have always been aware of the power of music, it took me a few years after my fathers death to reaslise what would have made our family position better, with this in mind I created the ‘Soundtrack to My Life’ a toolkit designed to improve the quality of life for people with dementia through the application of personalised music to daily living”

 John and I are planning two further events within the Heacham and Rising Deanery. On the 16th February as part of our ‘Lent: Looking Outwards’ series, John will introduce to us the possibilities of music in dementia care. We then hope to have a special Deanery evening furthering this exploration of music and memory.

I hope that all of this work will encourage us to understand the possibilities of care and the hope even in challenging circumstances.

Rev. Susan Bowden-Pickstock (Saxon Shore Benefice)