The Filo Project has, since August 2014, been providing small group day care for people with early to moderate dementia across Devon and Somerset. Growth has been rapid and the outcomes achieved significant. At this juncture we feel the time is right to both showcase the work that we do, but also raise the profile of this model of care. To do this we have collaborated with Hannah Maule-ffinch, an award-winning photojournalist, who has taken a series of images of clients attending our sessions. These photographs form an exhibition creating positive images of people in later life and celebrate the work of The Filo Project.
The inspiration behind this exhibition has been all the individuals we have encountered during their time at The Filo Project. In general, the narratives that surround dementia are extremely negative and follow a familiar script, i.e. that the potential for joy and meaning are very limited and the loss of some mental capacity equates to incapacities in most other areas. This national story which presents people with dementia as passive receivers of care is one-dimensional, unrepresentative, and, moreover negatively impacts upon the perceptions people with dementia have of themselves, and how others view them. The stigma which surrounds dementia is significant and to view people with dementia through a predominantly negative lens is to deny potential.
With this exhibition, it is not our intention to gloss over the challenges that people living with dementia and their families face, but to challenge perceptions, to present another side, another perspective, another knowledge. Often pride of place is given to knowledge we can evaluate as true or false. It is true that dementia can include difficulties in some practical ability (although by no means all) as well as accessing or reproducing true or false information, e.g. what month is it? What year is it? What did you do yesterday? Yet people are composite of considerably more than this. Knowing otherwise, a phrase borrowed from philosophy, offers an alternative perspective, one which values other kinds of knowledge, including humour, love, care, empathy, practical skill. The term knowing otherwise is an opportunity to give voice to the knowledge and expertise of people living with dementia, acquired through a life rich in experience. These photos and accompanying text, highlight the positive differences that can be made with people with dementia when social care is indeed sociable and meaningful. Elements of recovery are possible.
‘As I am knocking on a bit (93 to be exact) I decided to move from Stevenage to north Devon to be closer to my daughter and son-in-law, where I could have back-up from them if I needed it anytime. I was a stranger to this part of the world, but was gradually integrated into life here and my daughter signed me on to The Filo Project. This was a wonderful change for me, as I was getting amongst people and becoming a little more human again. It was a wonderful change as I am well looked after by the host; she picks me up from home, makes a delicious meal for us and we spend time in the garden, weather permitting, inside her home on wet days with various interests such as jigsaws, cards, dominoes, cooking, sing-alongs, visits from friends with pets and good chats with the people who became friends. Loneliness became a thing of the past. I went from sitting alone at home each day, waiting for visits from my daughter to having days out, something to look forward to and meeting new friends. We all happily rubbed along together as we got to know each other and enjoy our chats together, swapping stories with each other. What a lovely change of life this has been for me.’ Audrey, client.
‘I am thrilled that mum has developed a really good bond with Caroline, the host. I have to say that she has sounded really bright of late and only yesterday I was staggered that I could hold a 10 minute conversation and mum remembered several things almost unaided, including the name of Prince Harry’s future wife. As you will know mum is at her best in small groups situations where she can build relationships.’ Mary’s daughter
‘I feel we were so lucky to find The Filo Project. A completely new take on day care. The idea of a small group of people gathering for lunch in a private home is perfect, all very informal and yet at the same time one knows they are being well looked after. I was surprised to see the difference it made to my husband. He came home noticeably more alert and cheerful. I feel it brought him closer to his old way of life and he felt less isolated. Also doing something independently from me was important as well. Of course it was lovely for me to have some much needed time off too.’ Wendy, Victor’s wife
‘Philip has brought so much to the group. Not only is he fabulous to have riding as a navigator in the car, as he gives very clear instructions as to whether it is safe to pull out or not (so much so that I feel quite lost when he is not in the car). But he is also a goldmine of questions to Google that arise on our journeys to and fro. But what always surprises me is his ingenuity in coming up with solutions to any kind of problem. One day we were chatting about feeding the birds. I told the group how surprised I was that the fat balls I had put out to feed the birds in the garden were disappearing so quickly. I’d been keeping a close eye on them and was rather put out to find that a family of magpies were descending on the bird feeders almost immediately and scoffing the lot in minutes. Philip laughed and instantly came up with a solution. Well, you could suspend the bird feeder with a strong rubber band over a bucket of water then when the heavier birds alight on it they will pull it down into the water and get wet, which they won’t like. The lighter birds wouldn’t weigh enough to pull it down so they would be able to fee quite happily. Brilliant!’ Caroline, host.