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Laura Templeton explains how she helped to develop a special game designed to get people with dementia chatting and reminiscing.

This is the story of two sisters who refused to give up on their dream of helping people living with dementia.

Starting off

Over 25 years ago, Angela Newton (pictured above on the right) gave up the secretarial work she never really enjoyed, to train as an occupational therapist (OT). Specialising in working for the elderly, she knew that at long last, she had found her vocation. She adored the work but got very angry at the poor provision for people diagnosed with dementia.

So, with great determination she set about designing a board game that would stimulate different parts of the brain and encourage interaction. However, a patient fell on Angela, damaging her spine. She was devastated for many reasons – one being unable to pursue her dream of manufacturing her game.

Some years later, Laura Templeton, Angela’s sister and a graphic designer, thought that she might have the skills to help. So, she set about learning all she could about dementia whilst trialling and redesigning the game. She soon realised that the staff that were likely to use it were no longer trained OTs and that the game was too complicated.

Developing the game

So, after many different designs, Laura contacted the National Activities Providers Association (NAPA) to see if any members might assist in trialling the latest version. The response was fantastic, more than she had games for, and the feedback was invaluable. But it was still too complicated.

Progress was halted for a number of years due to Laura’s family ties and poor health, but when she could work on it again, she soon realised that the world was waking up to the need to help people in dementia care. It was time to get more professional help, and through the NHS Design Service, Laura was introduced to Professor Gill Livingston.

Gill is head of the research department of psychiatry of older people at University College London. She loved the concept of using a board game and agreed that she and her team would work with Laura on more development and trialling. Gill had identified that boredom is a huge problem in care homes. In order to best occupy someone, she knew it was important to know as much as possible about that person, including their likes and dislikes.

Making it happen

After several more years of trialling, mainly in North London Care homes and day care centres, the final design and question cards of the game were agreed. It was time to get it manufactured! This next step was more difficult and costly than anticipated, but Laura was determined not to be daunted. It took a mixture of her own funds, a government start-up loan, a grant from a Christian organisation and loans from friends to raise the capital to get the games manufactured by a specialist company in Germany.

The launch was at the Scottish Caring and Dementia Congress in Edinburgh 2015 – the venue chosen because Angela, who lives in the Scottish Borders, was able to attend. The game was very well-received and at long last, through faith, hard work and perseverance, Angela’s dream was finally realised. It is now being used to great effect in hundreds of places at home, in hospitals, day care centres and in care homes throughout the country and abroad.

What is Call To Mind?

It’s a specially designed board game that helps you get to know and understand the thinking, likes and dislikes of someone with dementia. This tool also stimulates memories and encourages conversations, both as the game is played and in everyday interactions. It can be played at home with friends and family or in the professional setting of a care home, day care centre, hospital or memory café. It draws on the the colour and style of traditional board games such as Trivial Pursuit and LUDO, but is designed specifically for people with dementia.

You can buy Call To Mind here.