Pupils’ Festive Visit Helps Foster Understanding of Dementia

Children from Troqueer Primary visiting Midpark Hospital in Dumfries

A FESTIVE trip by primary children from a Dumfries Primary School to meet people with dementia has been described as a ‘profound’ experience.

P7 youngsters from Troqueer Primary visited Midpark Hospital in Dumfries just before Christmas in the second stage of a collaborative piece of work.

And speaking after a day filled with interaction, music and fun, Troqueer Primary head teacher Mr Martin Armstrong said: “In 25 years of teaching I have never experienced something so profound.
“Thank you so much for giving our children this opportunity.”

Claire Gabriel is Senior Charge Nurse at Midpark, and helped make the event possible.

Explaining the background, Claire said: “This relationship with Troqueer Primary began when I attended the school to deliver a lesson on dementia and how it touches the lives of many members of the local community.
“We discussed ways that everyone could help and support each other and explored things like the importance of keeping active both mentally and physically, the importance of music, reminiscence and gathering lots of facts to compile life story albums.
“The children then were asked to come up with ways to help enjoy and remember Christmas.
“They tackled this with great enthusiasm and generated the idea of making sensory Christmas stockings, Christmas wreaths for each bedroom, and decorating a room for everyone to enjoy with their families and friends.
“They made a CD with all the old Christmas songs along with various other ideas.
“Feedback from this lesson was that the children knew people with a dementia and didn’t understand what is was or what it meant, so they had found this lesson helpful to increase knowledge but also give them ideas how to support family and friends.”

That work led to the visit to Midpark in the run-up to Christmas.

Claire said: “We could see that the children would gain a further insight and understanding of dementia
“And for our patients, the chance for them to engage and interact with these confident, happy young people was a fantastic and really positive opportunity.”

A fun, festive atmosphere soon filled the sitting room at Midpark, as the Troqueer Primary pupils made an instant impression, happily chatting with patients.

The pupils were divided into groups, with one focused on creating decorations for the room and another on creating artwork.

The ‘sensory stocking’ group proved a big success, as pupils brought out items such as tinsel and baubles, talking with the patients as they held and discussed the objects.

And a highlight was a mini music concert, where pupils confidently delivered a mixture of classic Christmas carols along with songs which evoked memories of the past.

Claire said: “It was an absolutely tremendous day that exceeded even our best expectations.
“The reaction from patients was amazing, with an incredible level of engagement.
“We could also see just how much the children took from the day, and how much they enjoyed it.”

Pupils have recorded their thoughts on the day.

Edward in P7 said: “I found this a once in a lifetime opportunity because it was amazing to interact with the patients. I loved how the patients joined in. One sang along and even played the piano.”
P7 pupil Brooke said: “I really enjoyed interacting with the patients and handing out the Christmas cards. I would love to do it again. Thank you.”
Samuel from P7 said: “I enjoyed helping the patients remember their childhood Christmas songs.”
Medina from P7 said: “I really enjoyed making a Christmas tree with one of the patients and getting to know them.”
Tess from P7 said: “I really enjoyed doing the sensory stockings and I was talking to one of the patients and he told me all about Christmas when he was young.”

The Christmas event proved so successful that talk has already turned towards doing something else in the future.

P7 class teacher Mrs Johnston said: “What a fantastic day for our P7 pupils.
“Long may our partnership continue.”