How poetry helps engage people with dementia

How poetry helps engage people with dementia

For those living with dementia, moments of relief can be extremely limited.

The debilitating syndrome, associated with an ongoing decline of brain functionality, is known for being a progressive condition that among other symptoms, results in memory loss. 

Other signs of dementia can include confusion and difficulty with processing thoughts, finding it hard to speak correctly, and encountering problems when attempting to carry out simple day to day tasks.

The potential of poetry

Whilst there is no cure for dementia, one such remedy that has been proven to help ease the memory loss symptoms associated with the condition, is poetry.

Research by the Alzheimer’s Society supports poetry, song and reminiscence as a means to helping people remain connected to their lives and each other as their dementia progresses. The Society features one such individual, whom while she cannot remember what day it is, can recite entire sections of poems from memory. This is because memories tend to decline in reverse order to when they were experienced.

Understandably, the power of poetry to ‘awaken’ those affected by dementia, can be invaluable to impacted individuals; allowing them to regain a part of their identity, even if only temporarily.

Shared Reading

Other organisations like The Reader, who champion the communication of short stories and poems through a ‘Shared Reading’ movement, support among additional communities, people living with dementia.

The national charity has found a link between memory loss caused by conditions such as dementia, and the positive impact that can be realised from reading aloud and reciting poetry. 

Poetry has been found to be an activity that can spark recognition, hugely benefiting individuals personally, as well as providing families with a precious chance to get back a shared moment in time with their much-loved relative.

Remembering with poetry

Poetry is regarded to be especially beneficial to helping people with memory loss dementia, given its regular rhyme and rhythm. It’s this cadence in poetry which can act as stimulation to the networks in our brain, sometimes causing us to recall once familiar verses.

Some of the other ways that poetry recital can help engage people with dementia include:

  • Unearthing memories and emotions – the ability to recall past events which may otherwise have never resurfaced
  • Bringing people together – poetry can help those living with dementia feel connected to others and the world around them
  • Providing an enjoyable stimulus – engagement through listening to poetry can be very calming and reassuring 
  • Encouraging feelings of happiness – even if the poetry reading itself does not become a lasting memory
  • Promoting improved health – creating better physical and mental wellbeing for an enhanced quality of life
  • Placing focus on what those living with dementia can do – as opposed to dementia being a constant reminder of the things the person suffering can no longer do

Just as poetry can provide great benefits indirectly supporting people with dementia, it can also bring huge comfort in helping their families and close friends. 

Some examples of this include:

Developing a sense of purpose – poetry can provide an opportunity for interaction, and some much-welcomed light relief for what can be an incredibly challenging condition to cope with as a relative or companion

Helping to initiate more meaningful relationships – whether it’s with a family member or someone providing care, poetry can help open up a dialogue, where ordinarily communication would be difficult

More Information on Dementia Home Care

For more information, you can read about our dementia home care services, take a look at our dementia care resources or contact us to see how we can provide support.

You might also like to hear a poem, to share with a loved one, from The Reader’s regularly updated Featured Poems.