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Birmingham and Solihull Mental health NHS Foundation Trust
Better Together

Local mental health trust and National Trust work together in a historic first to help those with dementia

Published: 20/05/2019

Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (BSMHFT) is helping service users living with dementia to enjoy the Birmingham Back to Backs, Birmingham's last surviving court of back to backs houses which takes visitors from the 1840’s to the 1970’s.

In a first for these organisations, they have come together to develop new innovative Reminiscence Sessions at the property, run by Rob Grady, Occupational Therapist and Technical Instructor at BSMHFT and volunteers from the Back to Backs.

Rob says he was contacted by two volunteers from the Back to Backs asking how they could make the houses more dementia friendly. He was delighted to be involved:

“I work with older people with dementia and it’s important for them to continue to enjoy different activities. I felt this was a great opportunity for our service users and carers.

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“The Trust and the Back to Backs have worked together to develop interactive sessions with sights, sounds, smells and objects that are likely to be familiar to evoke memories and encourage discussion. The fire is lit, tea made with tea leaves is served from a tea pot and service users and carers can relax and reminisce.”

These monthly sessions give service users and carers time out from their usual routine and help them experience something new together in a safe space and this can help to improve their relationship.

Mukith Miah, Volunteering and Community Involvement Manager – Birmingham Portfolio, National Trust explains why the Back to Backs team were so keen to make the project work:

“The Back to Backs is a special place and it should be accessible to everyone. Many of our volunteers are Dementia Friends and they are keen to welcome those with this condition to the Back to Backs and to make sure that they are comfortable and undaunted by their surroundings.” 

Sue Hartley, Executive Director of Nursing at BSMHFT said:

“We are always keen to look at new and different ways to support our service users and carers. This is a great initiative and of real benefit to those in our care who live with dementia. This year’s Dementia Action Week encourages us to start a conversation with someone with dementia and I think that BSMHFT and the Back to Backs are putting this into action.”

BSMHFT and the Back to Backs have had excellent feedback on their trial sessions and will continue to develop them by using items from the houses to talk about different themes such as life in the kitchen, holidays and clothing.

For more information, please contact the Birmingham Back to Backs by emailing or visiting backtobacks@nationaltrust.org.uk.