Memory box charity calls for funding to continue helping people with dementia

·2-min read
A care home resident holding a memory box (Wessex Heritage Trust/PA)
A care home resident holding a memory box (Wessex Heritage Trust/PA)

A charity which uses memory boxes to help dementia sufferers is facing an uncertain future as it enters its last few months of funding.

The Memory Box Project creates packages filled with items which are linked to themes, including home and garden, sport, childhood, animals and night on the town.

The project, which has been funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, was set up by the Wessex Heritage Trust in Hampshire in 2016.

But with funding in place only until February 2022, the future of the project is unclear.

A care home resident using a camera from one of the memory boxes (Wessex Heritage Trust/PA).
A care home resident using a camera from one of the memory boxes (Wessex Heritage Trust/PA).

Catherine West, head of charity services for the trust, told the PA news agency: “At this moment of time, we don’t know what’s going to happen to it.

“We will leave some sort of legacy, whether it is another charity takes on the project and runs it or we have a benefactor that will step in and say I want to fund that.

“It will be lovely if someone stepped up, but we are now in our final six months.”

Around 35 boxes are loaned out monthly by the project to homes, libraries and care homes.

The cooking, childhood, seaside and holidays boxes are the most popular, which Ms West says is because “they resonate with very happy memories for the vast majority of people”.

She added: “With dementia of course, you lose your most recent memories first and you go further and further back in time.

“I think the cookery box reminds them of maybe when they were a young adult and setting out with their own family, or it might take them all the way back to childhood.”

To create the boxes, the charity uses objects it has collected over time as well as donations from the public, Hampshire Cultural Trust and independent museums.

Memory box items laid out on a table (Wessex Heritage Trust/PA).
Memory box items laid out on a table (Wessex Heritage Trust/PA).

The team supplements these with second-hand items bought at online auctions or reproductions.

During Covid, the project has operated digitally thanks to funding which allowed them to buy 30 tablets to give to care homes.

Ms West said the online sessions had proved to be very successful.

She said: “I was running a session for a lady whose cognition was there, but she had lost her speech and at one point, I showed her a 10 shilling note and she put her hand out to the tablet and tried to pick it up.

“She was very, very animated and I found that so rewarding to think that I’d made that connection with somebody.

“Those facial expressions were worth a million pounds to me.”

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