The origins of the Teacup Lifestory Book as told by Teacup Dementia Therapy founder Heather Manktelow.
Strength and positive change can result from unexpected adversity…. just like the phoenix rising from the ashes on our Royal College of Occupational Therapy (OT) crest and the philosophy of our profession…. this is what we OTs promote, know and believe.
This time last year we were oblivious to a virus called COVID-19 (Coronavirus), and totally unaware of the havoc that it would wreak on humanity and planet Earth.
This is my story of hope and optimism: Being a cancer survivor, I have already risen from the ashes 6 years ago after I received successful treatment for breast cancer.
It was upon recovery that I decided to become an independent occupational therapist so that I could control the type and amount of work that I felt that I could cope with, since following my cancer treatment, I felt that I didn’t have quite the same energy that I had previously had.
My business name was, and still is, Activities for Health and I became a sole-trader.
Since then I have enjoyed being my own boss. Although there are pros and cons of being self-employed, it suited the way that I work.
For the last 6 years I have strived to improve life for people through activities – working with individuals, community groups, charities, care homes, hospitals, and day centres.
I have done this through carrying out assessments, setting up activity plans, reviewing care home activity programmes, delivering training and also facilitating a range of activities.
All of this work has been carried out face to face… until COVID-19 hit! Back in March 2020 when lockdown was decreed by the government, all my work came to a halt, and I was later to hear that the Activity Club for people living with dementia where I had been facilitating cognitive stimulation therapy for three days a week had closed it’s service forever!
Through lockdown I had been supporting the club members on a voluntary basis through phone calls and emailing out a range of quiz’s and word games to help keep people cognitively stimulated, and help carers out a bit. I knew that people living with dementia were feeling isolated and lonely, and this was shown to be true in the Alzheimer’s Society’s ‘Worst Hit – Dementia During Coronavirus Report’ (Sep 2020).
It stated that for people who survived the crisis, the effects of social isolation were severe:
46% of people with dementia reported that lockdown had a negative impact on their mental health.
In a wider group that included carers, 82% reported a deterioration in the symptoms of people with dementia.
56% of people with dementia living alone and 23% of people with dementia living with others, felt more lonely over lockdown.
But the effects of lockdown extends far beyond loneliness and isolation for people with dementia; the most common symptoms that were reported by respondents to have increased since lockdown being difficulty concentrating (48%), memory loss (47%), agitation/restlessness (45%).
Knowing that people with dementia and their carers were suffering during lockdown, I contacted another dementia care service and they welcomed me onto an eight week pilot project delivering cognitive stimulation therapy and support coaching to carers over video-link.
This was a whole new world to me… delivering interventions by video-link on a range of different platforms, but I felt that by being involved in the project I would be helping my participants and their carers in a small way to feel more supported and stimulated, without risking being in contact with the virus or putting anyone at risk.
I was interested to find out whether a therapeutic relationship could be established as quickly as it can be in face to face interventions. I was very happy to find out that with each of my allocated participants this was indeed the case.
I was also interested to see how older adults living with dementia and their carers would cope with and react to interacting with a screen, especially those who had been new to technology themselves. Again, I was very happy to find that they all reacted very well, despite the occasional glitch. I was delivering sessions on a range of media, depending upon how tech-savvy people were, in most cases it was the carers of people living with dementia who would set them up with the screen at the allotted day and time.
These included Zoom, FaceTime, Oscar Senior and KOMP Pro. It was a highly successful Pilot Project and has now been launched to the general public as TanDEM Care, I continue to work with this organisation.
Teacup LifeStory Books
Running parallel to this, I have set up a business with partners, including Occupational Therapist Kate Bartlett, helping people living with dementia and their carers to put together their Teacup LifeStory Book. Inspired by a lady with dementia who brought us together who collected miniature teacups, we named the business Teacup Dementia Therapy Ltd.
Encouraged by seeing how people with dementia and their carers (with the right support) react well to interacting with video-link; this is our preferred way of engaging with people. When researched we could not find any business helping to collate life stories for people who live with dementia.
Our unique selling point is that we use Healthcare Professionals with the right experience and skills to get the best out of people living with dementia, using Reminiscence Therapy and then transcribe individuals’ own words into a hardback book to create a Teacup LifeStory Book. There are around 50% words and 50% photographs.
The video-link sessions with the individual and their carer are enjoyable, and are a regular connection to the outside world, helping to alleviate social isolation. In between sessions there is an element of ‘homework’ to prepare for the next session and find photographs to accompany the story of their life and to help create their Teacup LifeStory Book. This process works as cognitive stimulation therapy and we have found that people really enjoy having a positive project to work on that results in a book to be passed on to future generations.
In addition to telling a LifeStory, during the discussions we find out and document a range of information; things that are important and meaningful to the individual that can inform future care and end of life eg. favourite activities, tastes, aromas, sights, sounds/music and touch.
Once the Teacup LifeStory Book process is complete, we work in collaboration with TanDEM Care to provide ongoing Individual Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (iCST) sessions, and carer support sessions on videolink.
We shall also be training carers to engage their loved ones in iCST in their own homes.
Returning to my starting point… strength and positive change can result from unexpected adversity – sometimes as Occupational Therapists we have to be creative and find new ways to connect with and help the people we work with.
In our everyday day work we help people to become strong again and overcome obstacles through positive change in their lives… and sometimes we also need to apply these principles to ourselves.
I am full of optimism and hope for a better future for myself, the people I work with, new ways of working and for mankind in general.
Heather Manktelow, co-founder, Teacup Dementia Therapy Ltd and the Teacup LifeStory Book