Dementia Friendly Screenings Review 2017 (Cecilia McAleavey)

Cecilia McAleavey, 61, Radyr, Cardiff explains why dementia-friendly screenings are so important for her mother.

Cinemas across the UK recognised World Alzheimer’s Month, with dementia friendly cinema events throughout September 2017 and beyond.The movement was led by Film Hub Wales with film screenings supported by the eight BFI Film Audience Network (FAN) Hubs across the UK, who provide dementia-friendly guidance, training and support to cinema operators.

On September 22, 2017, Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff, organised a day of film, information sessions, awareness raising and more to celebrate World Alzheimer’s Month, which included a dementia-friendly screening of ‘The Sound of Music’, with warm up by Goldies choir and an interval with tea and biscuits.

I am the eldest daughter and registered carer of my mother Mary McAleavey aged 89 who has dementia. She was widowed in 1990 and has five children. My mother’s dementia was diagnosed three years ago and has lived with me permanently since November 2016. My mother’s short term memory loss is increasing, which can be frustrating due to her constantly repeating questions. Apart from relying on a walking frame to get around, her physical health is very good for someone approaching 90. She enjoys going out for meals, tea and cakes, trips to the hairdresser. She loves seeing her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. One of my cats, William, loves to sit on her lap and mum visibly relaxes as she strokes him. She also loves to watch the birds on the feeders in my garden.

She lived in the same house in Grangetown for 87 years and was an active member of her local church. It was a difficult decision bringing her from familiar surroundings but she could not be left alone for long due to things like leaving the front door open, leaving pans on the stove, going to bed fully dressed and not having a downstairs toilet. I have tried to do various things to keep her mind active, such as jigsaws, simple knitting and reading, but unfortunately these have not worked. At the moment, she is enjoying looking through old family photographs. Several relatives have experienced living with a person with dementia and have taken mum out for a few hours to give her a change of scene and to give me a short break.

We both enjoy our visits to Chapter to see films. Before the onset of dementia I took mum to see films in Chapter as it is so very much nicer on many levels than a multiplex cinema. We usually have something to eat in the café beforehand. I take mum by bus in her wheelchair. The light, accessible layout of Chapter and close proximity to public transport makes the outing much easier. I have always enjoyed visits to the cinema. When I lived in south-east London I used to visit the David Lean Cinema in the Clock House, Croydon. Mum used to go the cinema in her youth but not so much in later years.

Visiting Chapter is a rewarding experience for us both. It’s an outing for her to look forward to and we chat about the film afterwards. Sometimes a friend or relative joins us. Due to her dementia, Mum does not always remember which film we have seen, but she does remember going to Chapter and visiting somewhere familiar is important. I enjoy classic and contemporary films. Mum loves all the old classics.

Dementia-friendly screenings are a brilliant idea. The physical adjustments such as volume and lighting help to create a relaxing atmosphere. We really enjoyed the sing-a-long screenings. For the ‘Calamity Jane’ screening we came as cowgirls and had photos taken in the photo booth. Mum loves to show the photos to people. It was great to see representatives from organisations there, which offered advice and information to carers and those with dementia. I have told other people about the dementia-friendly screenings in Chapter and have encouraged them to go.

I still go to standard screenings of films at Chapter and have taken Mum to a few but we both enjoy the welcoming and relaxed atmosphere of the dementia-friendly screenings. The staff and volunteers in Chapter are helpful, friendly and understanding. It’s a positive experience for both Mum and I and good to know that a lot is being done these days to provide support and activities for people with dementia and their carers. I am fortunate as I have siblings, other relatives, and friends to give support to Mum and I. However, I am aware that others struggle alone and would really benefit from going to a dementia-friendly screening.

Film Hub Wales are proud to lead the FAN Access for All Strategy on behalf of FAN here in Wales: Film Hub Wales Access For All Strategy For more information, please contact the FAN Access Officer 

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