Exchanging happy memories with family and friends is always such fun.  The squeals of laughter as someone remembers something funny or the delight of being reminded about something you had forgotten can bring smiles to a group of people like nothing else. So, imagine what it would be like to be one of our many patients who suffer from some form of cognitive impairment, whose memories are much more difficult to recall.

This however is about to change for our patients on Harding and Cromwell wards, our older adult mental health inpatient units based in Buckinghamshire, as they are now the proud owners of two “Reminiscence Pods” where staff are hoping to be able to make a real difference by enabling them to participate in “Reminiscence Therapy”. Reminiscence involves exchanging memories with the old and young, friends and relatives, with caregivers and professionals, passing on information, wisdom and skills.  It is about giving the person with a dementia-type illness or severe depression a sense of value, importance, belonging, power and peace. Evidence from various research has shown that patients who have been able to participate in this particular type of activity are less withdrawn, interacted with staff more, showed an improved cognitive function and experienced a higher sense of wellbeing after reminiscence therapy than unstructured time or any goal orientated group.

A small group of staff from across the Trust were invited to the formal opening of these two pods in December, where we were treated to tea and cakes in a 1950’s lounge on Cromwell Ward and non-alcoholic drinks and nibbles in a pub on Harding Ward.  The pub in particular allows group activities to take place such as card games, pub games, pub quizzes and fish and chip nights.  It is hoped that this will stimulate memories and discussions of the social aspects of going to a pub and what role it played in many of our patients’ lives as they were growing up as young men and women with families. The lounge on Cromwell Ward allows for a slightly different approach as patients can listen to the radio or watch the television, both of which have genuine 1950’s programming on them.  There is also an opportunity for patients to handle a number of artefacts from that era; children’s toys and books and magazines, which allows them to recall memories from their past and discuss them in small groups with other patients and staff.

The two pods are now fully in use on both wards and so far have received nothing but positive praise from the patients using them and the staff working with them.  The Mental Health Division is hoping that it will be able to fund replica pods for the older adult mental health wards in Oxfordshire, to ensure that our patients there are also given the opportunity to participate in this unique, but highly successful therapy.

Reminiscing at the 1950s pub on Harding Ward