Bristol Memory Cafe Celebration - Blog by Jakki Whitehead, Admiral Nurse

Towards the end of last year Tony Hall of The Bristol Dementia Action Alliance (BDAA) invited Marilisa and I to the Bristol Memory Cafe Celebration to give a presentation about Riversway’s Forget Me Not Cafe along with seven other Memory Cafe coordinators in Bristol including;

*Happy Days Memory Cafe run by Tony of the BDAA

*Alive run by Isobel Jones

*The Holy Trinity Cafe run by Liz Leaman

*Bristol Royal Infirmary and Alzheimer’s Society’s memory cafes were also represented.

It was interesting to hear the variety of approaches used in the different settings but what was really evident was the enthusiasm of all those involved and the passion for improving the lives of those with dementia and their carers.

This presentation coincided with Laura, a Research and Evaluation Officer at Dementia UK, producing a poster about an Admiral Nurse and The Forget Me Not Cafe at Riversway.

Marilisa and I started by introducing ourselves and Riversway Nursing Home; we explained that times had changed and that residents who had been with us for 10-15 years had passed on.


We recognised that we needed a new forum to get to know the new residents and their relatives as quickly as possible and decided to use the recognised form 'This is Me' as well as a memory cafe as a basis to develop our knowledge of the residents.


The main aims of the Forget Me Not  Cafe were to;

  • Help residents, relatives and staff to develop relationships and to get to know some of their life story in a relatively short period of time. The ‘This is Me’ maybe filled in with resident and relatives.
  • Facilitate access for residents and relatives to expert support from an Admiral Nurse.
  • Create an avenue for families to discuss shared challenges.  One relative commented that he had more support at the cafe in 5 minutes than he had received in 3 months in a hospital. 
  • Facilitate an inclusive environment in the home between residents with cognitive impairment and those without.  A resident who had a stroke and very little cognitive impairment found that she felt much more useful when she was able to help residents who had more of a communication problem than she did. 

We spoke about the main rule which was that once a month the kitchen provides us with really scrumptious cakes!

A choice from Victoria Sponge, Carrot, Coffee and Walnut, Lemon Drizzle, Blueberry, Chocolate, Red Velvet, Danish Pastries, fruit cakes and a variety of biscuits..... Catering for most diets; normal, gluten free, low sugar, vegan.

We encourage all residents, relatives, friends, staff and relatives of people who have passed on, to attend.


So why cake?

  • To promote an inclusive, happy and enjoyable atmosphere within the home.
  • To promote the importance of decision making amongst all residents - which cake? Most of our residents still retain the ability to choose which cake, even in advanced dementia.
  • To provide textures and flavours for sensory stimulation and reminiscence. It is a joy to see a resident who have been very ill and have a very complicated eating regime brightening with delight when they have cake and gingerbread men: ‘those gingerbread men brought back memories of my childhood’.
  • Promotes involvement of all different parts of the staff team and they are starting to own the process, meaning that they feel involved and thus involve residents and relatives, staff come to join in for a while and take cake back to residents in their rooms.

This leads to reminiscence, activities, sensory stimulation; Life stories being shared and recorded; residents, families, friends and staff getting to know each other in a relaxed environment; relationships being built throughout the home, with residents, relatives and staff; improved wellbeing with residents and relatives feeling supported by staff who have a good level of experience. One resident really responded to me giving him cake, he started to realise that I did care for him and that things could improve in some ways; this was a time when everything in his life seemed dark.


What Happens?  

We can have visiting numbers from 15-32 (a squeeze!), Residents are the main attenders, the average number of relatives attending is about 7 but sometimes more.

We often just chat but also run activities such as singing, poetry reading or choosing pictures for decorating the home.

We might put all sorts of tactile items on the tables, we have a volunteer who brings Twiddle Muffs, Twiddle Aprons and crocheted mats from her craft group, they are always popular we put out other reminiscence stuff as well.

Comments from the relatives about the cafe are generally positive. A relative in a Focus Group commented that ‘The families find confidence in the fact that the Admiral Nurse holds the cafes…so she is available to them and they have confidence in her and talk about the conditions.’ Another helper commented that he had ‘never seen so much cake be eaten by so many people in so little time and then for them to go on and eat their lunch too!’



Finally, it is great to see so many people getting so much out of the Forget Me Not Cafe but it is also safe to say that Marilisa and I enjoy it too.




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