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Brothers praised for creating dementia awareness app

SUPPORT: Karl and Junior Wilson have launched an app for African Caribbeans living with dementia

TWO BROTHERS have created a culturally sensitive memory tool to address the lack of support for those living with dementia form the Afrian Caribbean community and their families and carers.

ELDERS

The Culturally Sensitive Reminiscence Therapy tool is an app which provides a collection of culturally specific memorable items and downloadable activities which have been built up and populated by the elders and their family members, to help dementia sufferers develop suitable reminiscence sessions in their homes.

The tool also helps carers in care homes and day care centres who do not know anything about the person in order to build up reminiscence sessions while at the same time getting to know the person.

Created by Birmingham-based Karl and Junior Wilson, the app consists of an online profile, memory box and activities. Its aim is to help alleviate issues such as loneliness and depression.

The Wilsons set up Pearl Support Network after their late mother, Pearl, who lived with dementia for 15 years before passing away in 2016. They cared for her when she first developed dementia but had to send her to a care home when they found it no longer possible to attend to her personal needs. Both men have a background in the IT and marketing.

The idea for the app came about after they saw many of the Memory Cafes and day centres were reminiscing about British memories, which were not relevant to members of the black and minority ethnic (BAME) community.

The need was even more ap- parent for them when they witnessed first-hand the problems their mother’s carers faced dealing with her and her needs at the care home.

Karl Wilson said: “They [the carers] didn’t know what to do or how to interact with those who were from other cultures apart from their own, which were mainly British. “When we visited our mother we became more and more aware that this was largely due to a lack of culturally sensitive resources in the care home.

“The service is aimed at anyone who cares for or has elderly persons who may be affected by dementia and even loneliness to help them with their health, well-being and moods, which helps with a reduction in symptoms of depression.”

The app also feeds into a private family support social network, as invited family and friends can come together to provide and share reminiscence stories, music, videos, photos that the person being cared for enjoys, which will help carers, friends or family members who may not initially have any background information on the person they are trying to care for. It is free for family members to use but there is a monthly fee payable for care homes.

INCLUSION

The service is aimed at all members of the BAME community but has only so far been populated by information relative to the African and Carib- bean community, although the brothers are currently working with other communities, like the South Asian community, to identify their memorable and relative items for inclusion. They are also seeking other communities to come forward to help them populate the site with items and activities from their cultures.

In 2018 the brothers won the Mayor of London’s Civic Innovation Challenge at an awards ceremony at City Hall for the therapy tool. They were chosen from a shortlist of 14 companies which began with 100 applicants.

They were given £15,000 to test and renew their ideas with a group of public and private sector partners. Their partner was Our Healthier South East London STP.

The pair also run a culturally sensitive memory cafe in Handsworth in Birmingham aimed at African Caribbean elders living with dementia, which they launched after finding out that many of the organisations catering for those with dementia are based on English history and that many of the African Caribbean elders with dementia who attended them felt nobody cared for them.

DIFFICULT

The cafe, which is held on the third Friday of the month, has jigsaw puzzles, word searches and bingo – all based on African Caribbean history.

Karl added: “We want this cafe to be a agship for others to follow to cater for the local BAME community in different areas.

“We hope this and the memory tool myself and my brother have created will go a long way towards helping those from the BAME community living with dementia to receive the support they need and deserve at this difficult time in their lives.”

For more details about the app please visit pearlsupport network.org.uk.

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