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Rhona and Mary's Story

Our Reading is Caring programme helps people like Rhona and her mum, Mary

Rhona cares for her mum, Mary, who has advanced stage dementia and lives in a care home. Rhona told us about the impact Reading is Caring has had on their relationship and both Mary and Rhona's own wellbeing.

I realised that my mum's whole life as she knows it has been erased. I tried to work out at what age she was in her head, for any activity would have to appeal to her 'head' age. I worked out that she was probably 6, as she remembered her older siblings but not her younger.

I moved to reading to her rather than with her. She would look at my face for communication cues, so eye contact is really important. I had to become animated for her to know it's a story, but once I do, she's connected and involved, smiling at funny bits. She realises that I know her.

If I connect it to her life and mention local places, that sparks something, and she'll ask questions.

I go in and she’s in her own world, but I read, and she comes back into the real world and sees me – the stories bring her into the here and now.

It's really good because I know my mum is getting something out of it. She'll be sitting, playing with her skirt and looking somewhat blank. I go in and she’s in her own world, but I read, and she comes back into the real world and sees me – the stories bring her into the here and now. She laughs, she's interested and engaged. I get a glimpse of her personality again, which is lovely for both of us.

It's hard for her to see, but when I describe the scene in the book – like a cold, starry night – she looks relaxed and as if she's imagining it with me.

This was such a fantastic course and has given me an opportunity to spend lovely times with my mum, rather than being anxious about what to do to help her engage or just watching her sleep. We'll both get something out of the visit if I read. Sometimes, you can go in sad and low, a bit out of duty, putting a brave face on. Picking up and reading a story gives us both a bit of respite. This is something to focus on. If I'm engaged, I can make it fun and set the scene and put us in a better mood. Then mum's happy and content. She's had a laugh. I never feel rubbish after. I've never felt upset. Sometimes I've had a wee chuckle. Because I know we've had a meaningful time together.

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