We try out puzzles and books designed to prompt conversation and reminiscence for people with dementia who have Caribbean or African heritage.
When Feyi Raimi-Abraham couldn’t find reminiscence products that were culturally relevant for her mother, who grew up in Trinidad, she set up the Black Dementia Company.
They produce puzzles and activity books with imagery and topics selected specially for people with African or Caribbean heritage.
These are now available through our online shop and – with the help of Anndeloris Chacon at Bristol Black Carers and Trish Caverly at Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service – we sent a range of them out to be tested by people at home.
Vintage photo puzzles
There are seven 16-piece jigsaw puzzles, each with a vintage photo from a carefully chosen place and time:
The people we contacted through Bristol Black Carers liked and identified with the packaging of all the products. They said it looked appealing while being clear about what’s inside.
A carer said, ‘The cover got my attention because it had Black people featured on it’ – something specifically mentioned by one person with dementia too.
‘Mum is enjoying the puzzles,’ said another carer. ‘We like the size of the puzzle, it’s perfect.’
Many carers said the large jigsaw pieces were helpful, and a person with dementia commented, ‘I find the puzzle pieces brilliant and easy to use.’
The puzzles all use photos that are either black and white or with limited colour, and this was also appreciated by our testers.
‘The colours in black and white and it make things easier,’ said a person living with dementia.
Although one carer said that helping their mother hold the pieces was straightforward, it was difficult to get her interest because she wasn’t used to doing puzzles. However, they went down well with most of the people who tried them.
‘My husband likes doing the puzzles and so does it as and when he’s got the time,’ said one.
Colouring and word puzzles
The Tropical Colouring Book and Tropical Colouring Book Volume 2 each contain over 30 pages with illustrations of flowers, people and more that resonate with African and Caribbean cultures. They also have blank areas that can be used to draw more pictures.
The Wordsearch and More Book includes puzzles with tropical-themed words to be found in them, as well as short quizzes.
Our Bristol Black Carers contacts thought the colouring book images were great. One person with dementia said, ‘Because of the size, it was easier to stay in the lines and there are a lot of different drawings.’
Another said, ‘It brought back memories for me as a child doing the colouring.’
‘I enjoyed working through the book,’ said another of our testers, ‘and the cover appealed to me.’
A carer said, ‘It’s nice seeing Black people in the pictures wearing headwraps, which are still relevant and trending with women and young people.’
One carer liked, ‘seeing the flowers, parrot bird, drums, men playing the steel bands, clothing that is still relevant,’ and another agreed, ‘Afro hair, the person with the basket on her head, the men in the canoe – I visualise this through the eyes of my grandparents.’
The use of blank spaces was appreciated, with one carer saying. ‘It helped my mother to focus on one drawing at a time.’
Brigitte in Gloucester felt certain that her husband wouldn’t be interested in the idea of colouring in, even though the pictures would chime with his Caribbean heritage. Her solution was for them to spend an hour looking at the pictures and reminiscing about ‘back home’ – an idea that could be adopted by others.
‘He named the fruit and together we remembered all the lovely fruits and foods on his island and how his mum used to make lovely fruit juices, and how she was the best cook ever and taught all her children to cook,’ said Brigitte.
‘The illustration of the hummingbird brought out a lovely conversation about the French name for the hummingbird, and the lady in the traditional dress reminded him of his mum, who was a seamstress, sewing dresses for the ladies back home.’
Of those who tried the wordsearches and quizzes, one said, ‘I love everything about the book.’
‘I think it is a great book for carer and cared-for,’ said another.
Our Bristol Black Carers testers agreed that – although they hoped mass production might make them cheaper – all these products are good value. They said they would have bought them for themselves and would recommend them to other people.
Prices (correct at August 2021):
- The 16-piece jigsaw puzzles are £13.33 plus VAT each.
- The Tropical Colouring Book, Tropical Colouring Book Volume 2 and Wordsearch and More Book are £10 plus VAT each.
Daily living aids
We have a great range of products designed to help people with dementia and their carers to be more comfortable in their homes, while supporting independence and safety.
Our online shop offers many products designed to help people affected by dementia to live well at home.
You don’t have to pay VAT on many daily living aids if they’re for use by a person with dementia or other condition – tick the box stating that you’re eligible for VAT relief at checkout.