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We discover the top tips and dementia-friendly product suggestions from Unforgettable expert panel member Ben Atkinson-Willes

Who are you?

I’m Ben Atkinson-Willes the founder of Active Minds, a product design company that create specialist activity products for people living with dementia.

What expertise can you bring to the Unforgettable panel?

After six years developing products, I have a wealth of experience and understanding on the positive impact that tailored resources can make to the day-to-day wellbeing of somebody with dementia.

Do you have a personal interest in dementia?

My drive to improve the resources available to those living with dementia was born out of the experience of caring for my grandfather who lived with dementia for 16 years.

As a family we noticed that all his care needs were well catered for, but as time progressed the more obvious challenge became finding things for him to do that would keep him occupied. As time went on, we noticed the traditional games, puzzles and activities we had previously used were becoming increasingly obsolete. To meet this need, we were forced to start using children’s toys. As a family we found this patronising, undignified and unnecessary.

I decided to set up Active Minds to create activity products, which through research and rigorous testing, meet the unique needs of those living with dementia and return them the right to continue to enjoy their hobbies in a dignified way.

If a family carer asked you for advice on what could help improve the quality of life for their mother or father who has just been diagnosed with dementia, what would you say?

Keeping people with dementia mentally and physically stimulated has a huge impact on their health and quality of life. Research shows regular activity helps to reduce restlessness, aggressive behaviour and sleeplessness; symptoms which can make caring for someone living with dementia even more challenging.

Making sure your loved one continues to do as many of their normal daily activities as possible will maintain their independence and ensure they continue to lead an active and fulfilling life. This can get frustrating when simple task take much longer but it is important to be as patient as possible.

When normal day-to-day tasks become too challenging there is a large range of specialist activity products on the market that can help people maintain their hobbies and engage with the people around them.

What would your advice be for what they should do now and how they can best prepare for the journey ahead?

The first and most important thing is optimism. Optimism provides a positive framework which influences all subsequent decision making as the family enter the journey. Following a diagnosis of dementia, many people have a predisposition to notice what tasks can no longer be done. As a company, we have witnessed the enormous impact made when instead people focus on observing what can be done and being creative around exploring that.

What products would you recommend to help a person caring for someone with dementia?

Take a look at our online shop of Dementia related products.