A compassionate voluntary worker has turned her design skills to fantastic use to help people living with dementia.
Emily Tyler is the founder of A Good Day, a company which makes activity and reminiscence boxes for people with the debilitating condition.
Graphic designer Emily, from Accrington in Lancashire, was inspired to volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Society after witnessing the declining health of her nana, who succumbed to the illness in 2014 at the age of 84.
She explains: “I had been away travelling and was really shocked when I came back and my nana didn’t recognise me.
“I started working full-time but negotiated reduced hours with my employers so that I could spend Friday afternoons volunteering. Seeing the same people every week is really important for people with dementia. Seeing familiar faces makes them feel relaxed. We’re like a little family. It’s really nice to see the impact that the sessions have. For many of them it’s the only time they leave their home or care home.”
In July last year, Emily took the plunge and gave up her job to embark on a freelance career, which would allow her to expand her work with people living with dementia.The idea for the A Good Day boxes came
to her in a flash. “I just woke up with the idea one morning,” she says. “I realised that, when people attend sessions at dementia cafes, it’s a really good day for them. There can be so many bad or difficult days for family members so that one good day makes a big difference.
“One day there will hopefully be a cure for dementia but, until then, let’s make more of the good days – that’s our ethos. The aim of the boxes is to replicate that good day in their own home.”
Emily’s boxes are filled with tools of engagement to prompt carers and family members. The recent Mother’s Day box, for example, contained teas, jams and soap from ‘yesteryears’, along with colouring materials, leaflets and booklets about perfumes and music from the 1960s and 1970s.
In addition, Emily has launched a monthly dementia café – hosted at her mum Shirley’s craft café, Space2Make, in the town centre. Shirley opened the café in 2001 after a career in the police spanning 18 years.
The beautiful historic building and former high-end dress shop dates back to 1876, and recently received a Heritage Lottery grant for a new shopfront.
Shirley offers workshops in a range of creative arts such as sewing, pottery, jewellery making, crochet, and candle making, and, during the school holidays, the café is a haven for artistic youngsters.
Emily and Shirley’s monthly dementia café sessions at Space2Make, offer crafts, singing and, of course, coffee and cake.
The duo’s monthly dementia café sessions offer crafts, singing and, of course, coffee and cake.
“It’s a nice, safe and quiet environment where visitors can walk round and have a look at everything and meet new people,” continues Emily. “We rearrange the tables so that everyone sits together on one big, long table and we serve tea and coffee in china cups.”
The café also offers homemade soups and sandwiches, chips and jacket potatoes plus afternoon tea, featuring Country Range Mini Cake Assortment.
Says Shirley: “They’re a great selection of cakes and are so easy – everybody loves them!”