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Carer Friendly Community: Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Gallery

01 June 2016

Exeter Royal Albert Memorial Museum CFC

 

 “It has been a great escape for me, and when I have been able to [come too,] a source of relaxation and pleasure. As far as I am concerned it has been amazing! [My wife] has not seemed to get so confused and often remembers parts of visits to the museum and people she meets there.”


Gentleman who cares for his wife who has dementia

About Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Gallery (RAMM)

Exeter’s world-class museum has stunning displays and galleries, fabulous exhibitions and modern amenities. The displays reveal Devon and Exeter’s rich history and global connections. Exotic animals, birds and insects delight children and the world cultures galleries display stunning items from all over the world. The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm.


How does RAMM go above and beyond to support people with dementia and their carers?

Exeter’s RAMM has been working since 2013 to make the museum more dementia-friendly and provide enjoyable, stimulating activities for people with dementia and their carers.

The Living Each Season programme is based around a combination of object-handling, creative activities and gallery tours. They use the loose theme of the seasons, and the eclectic nature of the museum’s collections – from Natural History and World Cultures to Fine Art and Archaeology – to spark conversations.

The focus is on the experience in the moment, something akin to mindfulness. For example, in spring people might hold beautiful pale blue birds’ egg, try on a straw bonnet in the summer, stroke Middle Eastern wools in rich autumn colours or describe cosy winter evenings while passing around a 2,000-year-old Roman heating tile.

The wife of a gentleman who could no longer speak with ease wrote to the museum to say she appreciated the sessions and the picture hand-outs they’d received:

“It was such an enjoyable experience, and on a personal level, it has given [my husband] and I much to discuss at home where he is able to relax and understand what it is all about.”

For more information about the museum’s Living Each Season programme visit www.rammuseum.org.uk, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 01392 265 305.


Why is the Living Each Season programme needed? 

Many couples living with a dementia diagnosis find their world gets smaller – physically, socially and mentally. People often feel that they are being pushed to the edge of society. The museum aims to provide an opportunity for the mind to travel, in a safe and welcoming environment.

At the museum, visitors are free to define themselves, free from the role of carer or the person with an illness. Participants listen to each other and laugh together, regardless of who has a diagnosis or not.

Carers can be too overwhelmed by daily concerns to face setting up an artistic activity at home, even when one or both of them used to love being creative. The museum can provide materials, space and inspiration, and do all the clearing up!

There is little local provision for people in the early stages of dementia and their partners. It is also hard to find spaces where younger couples and people of diverse cultural backgrounds feel comfortable, so the museum provides a neutral setting and most people relate to something in the collections and to the topic of the seasons.


What difference is it making to the lives of carers in Exeter?

Sessions provide a chance for people with dementia and their carers to be themselves and feel connected to other people. There is the social circle within the room and also the potential connection through the objects to people who might be far away in time or space.

For couples, it is a rare opportunity to share an experience on an equal level, to be treated with respect and warmth both separately and together. The programme focuses on what people can do, not what they cannot. And the emphasis on who people are today, not who they used to be, is uplifting for carers and creates a relaxed experience for people with dementia.

Creative activities can be therapeutic for both people with dementia and carers, especially for those who have lost the time or patience to organise something they might once have enjoyed.

The museum aims to make all its visitors feel like valued, interesting individuals with something to contribute and making people feel as if they are sharing a public institution and playing an active part in society.

“People ask me why enjoy myself, if I’m only going to forget it. I say, why not? I’ve loved every minute.”

– Participant with dementia 

Carers Week 2018

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