Make the Five Ways to Wellbeing part of your New Year’s Resolution 

by Martha Pusey

Like many others I have made a new year’s resolution, set myself a goal or changed an undesirable habit from the year, that I know after a few weeks I will be thinking what is the point? Why did I do this? But what can you set yourself as a resolution that does not feel consuming and unachievable when you are caring for someone or when you are living with dementia? At Dementia Support however, we have some very simple ideas to help support making small powerful changes that can have a lasting impact on people’s health and wellbeing.


Five Ways to Wellbeing

There is a drive to ensure that we are looking after ourselves both mentally and physically through the Covid-19 pandemic.  The Five Ways to Wellbeing (1) is one of the ideas we encourage our carers and people living with dementia to do in their daily lives and most of the services are planned around this. The Five ways are – Connect, Be Active, Keep Learning, Give to Others and Take Notice.

Many of our carers say that they feel lonely and isolated at times so connecting with others is so beneficial.  At Sage House we have a group of carers who found a way to ‘connect’ and started their own ‘Wives Club’ on a Friday in Daisy’s Café.  They would chat over coffee’s while their husband’s spent time in daybreaks and then progressed to lunches out, through Lockdown they have met up for walks or crafting sessions in each other’s gardens.  The connections that these 5 wives have made has been “life changing” even though they “would not have met from their usual friendship circles, having someone else who understands the highs and lows of the caring role has helped us remain sane”.

Another group of our carers and their loved ones living with dementia came to Sage House to take part in the fun and lively Move2Music sessions run by Suzanna Hill (2) to ‘be active’.  In addition to taking part in a physical activity the group also spent time talking and socialising with others in Daisy’s Café.  The links they have made meant that through lockdown even though they were not able to physically meet up, they could talk to each other on the phone or Zoom. Prior to the Covid-19 lockdowns, Sage House delivered a number of other physical activities, including chair-based exercises and Tai Chi.  While we have been closed we have supported our customers to remain active either with online exercises – Chair Based Exercises with Jane – YouTube or by doing virtual walking – Dementia Support’s Bishop’s Palace Gardens walk – YouTube.

Every Day is a School Day

We all reach that age where we think that we are too old to learn any more, with the adage of the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. However, at Dementia Support we don’t think that is, or should be the case and that at any age we can keep learning.  There have been studies conducted that show learning a second language can be beneficial for the brain.  Daybreaks members spent some time learning some Italian with a volunteer who attended monthly.  While none of us became fluent in Italian, the sessions created lots of laughter, some members recalled other languages they had learnt in the past and some members were able to reminisce about holidays in Italy and become a great way for us all to ‘keep learning’.

Our Italian volunteer was one of many who have helped to make Sage House so successful and giving your time as a volunteer can offer great rewards.  Sage House has over 50 volunteers who give their time and therefore ‘Given to others’ – from making befriending calls, to setting up and running activities for carers and people living with dementia, to helping in Daisy’s Café and fundraising events.  One of the Wayfinders has even supported a lady living with dementia to start a volunteering role with the support of ‘Impact initiatives’ (3).  For the lady, she thought that it would “be amazing to be doing something meaningful and boost her self-esteem in being able to give back to her local community.”

The last of the Five Ways to Wellbeing is ‘Take notice’. This is something that we can all do in different ways, taking time to be in nature is a great way to take notice of our surroundings, for me there is nothing better than a walk in the woods on a summer’s day, watching the birds and, if I am lucky, a deer or two. Even on rainy days I am thankful to have dogs to take out for a walk, hearing the birds dawn chorus is one of my favourites at this time of year – yes even in the dark early mornings there is plenty to take notice of.  As well as taking notice of our surroundings it is extremely important to take notice of ourselves and taking time for ourselves.  For carers I recognise that it can be extremely difficult to take a break or to think of themselves.  There are a couple of techniques that you can try that take no more than 5 minutes in the day and something carers can even do with their loved one living with dementia.  See our relaxation techniques fact sheet and have a go at the Body Scan or the 5-4-3-2-1 relaxation.  Follow the steps and take notice of how you are feeling in that moment.

Power of Small

Sometimes it is just making small changes that can have a longer-term benefit and the power of small changes can be amazing.  This year with the added challenges that Covid-19 brought, many people may be thinking it is time to do something new.  The team at Sage House want to find new ways to support people living with dementia and their carers to take on this challenge of doing something new for the New Year.

As part of the national Time to Talk campaign, which supports mental health and encouraging people to talk about mental health, the team have designed a two-day event to give people living with dementia time to talk about their concerns surrounding paying for care.  To demystify the rarely talked about subjects of what happens when someone goes into a care home and the need to have care at home.  The Wayfinders are going to be conducting live interviews with local care providers. In addition to this, there will be a number of short talks and virtual experiences for people living with dementia and their carers to take part in from the comfort of their homes.  The sessions include ‘Sport Talk’, ‘Inside McLaren’, and virtual tours of Arundel Wetlands, Pallent House Gallery and more.  Wayfinders hope that these tours will inspire people to get out in the spring and experience them in person.

Making small changes

The New Year does not have to be about making unachievable resolutions but simply thinking about making small changes that can have a big impact on your wellbeing.  Using the ‘Five ways of wellbeing’ (1) you can try some of our ideas for exercising or try some of our relaxation techniques.   You could reach out and call a friend or even join our amazing volunteers who are calling people who feel lonely and isolated.  Book onto any of our Time to Talk sessions and discover a new way to go out while staying in.

You might even call Dementia Support for the first time and get access to free help and support from one of our team of Wayfinders.  Whatever changes you decide to make, we all wish you a very Happy New Year.