“I’m alright when I’m here.”

Working recently with people living with dementia I met Brian, a seventy year old man,who had been struggling to come to terms with his illness. He found some relief when I read poems to him.

” I can see things more clearly. It’s like I can work it all out now.”

Brian attended 18 out of 21 sessions of ‘Make Friends with a Poem.’ He arrived at the residential home just in time to join the poetry group. He was very upset; he had just been told that he was going to be living at the residential home from now on. Even though Brian was suffering from the symptoms of late stage dementia,often confused and disorientated, he was still capable of very lucid moments.  He certainly knew what was happening to him when we welcomed him into the group and we listened carefully to his laments.

” I don’t belong here, I just want to go home,please this is all wrong”

I suggested that if he didn’t mind,we were going to read some poetry. At once Brian’s mood lifted and he sat quietly while the first poem was read out. I read ‘Macavity’ a poem Brian recognised, this pleased him immensely,his face lit up and he recalled lines from the poem. We read it again together, laughing at the naughty cat. A discussion about naughty cats and their antics ensued. The room’s atmosphere had changed in minutes from being quite solemn to one of frivolity.

A pattern had been set and Brian attended and contributed regularly on a weekly basis;he told his relatives about the poetry sessions and made sure staff knew that he wanted to come to all the poetry sessions. Appointments had to be re-arranged and even when he became too ill to walk he insisted on being hoisted into his seat.

“I feel like my thoughts are deeper than usual.” said Brian after a poem.

On the last week of the project Brain’s health had deteriorated and he had to remain in bed, I asked if I could go and see him and was welcomed into his room,  we recited poetry in whispers. When I left the home that day, I knew Brian wasn’t going to live much longer. I felt terribly sad yet I managed to remind myself, that although Brian had suffered, he had really enjoyed reading and listening to the poems, and on those days he had come to life;smiling,reminiscing, reflecting and interacting with myself and others. The poetry sessions had made a big difference to his time in the home and to his ability to cope with the effects of dementia.

” Yes, I love hearing the poetry it makes  such a difference to the day.”

Brian speaks out.


Playing bingo does not do anything for me. This does.

I am a 69 year old widow and I find the shared reading group Make Friends with a Book a great help in fulfilling my life. Meeting people in conversation and also the interest of the books and poems give me a feeling of achieving something in my life. I certainly think that activities like this are important, specially in the economic situation, and especially for people who are on their own. It is something to look forward to and to make you want to get out of bed and go out. It is a purpose in life.

It is important. Playing bingo does not do anything for me. This does.

Ivy’s Story