This issue focuses on writing with people with dementia and is edited by two practitioners. This has been a year of firsts for such writing: the first roundtable of writers who had ventured into this neglected area was held at Newcastle University last winter, organized by NAWE. Then there was the first residential course for writers keen to come to grips with the challenges offered by this client group, which took place at Ty Newydd in May. And now there is this special issue of Writing in Education devoted to the subject. These are certainly firsts for the UK and we believe the World.
Why has writing with people with dementia taken so long to take off? To us, who have been working in the area for a considerable time, it seems incomprehensible. The need is so great and so obvious that the apparent (actual?) indifference of institutions and organizations is highly suspicious. Do they not want people with dementia to have a voice? But then we must realize that we are talking about an area of medical and social provision which has been starved of funds for decades, and where physical needs, let alone spiritual and psychological ones, are still barely being met. It is also, of course, where increased resources, where they are made available, are barely able to keep up with burgeoning demand.
Writing is the art form for those whose language ability is being challenged: it helps individuals to clarify their thoughts and feelings, and enhances the sense of personhood which is otherwise threatened by the condition. It should be available on prescription.
Most of the writers who have contributed to the following pages have not only experienced the steep learning curve inevitable in finding the approach that works best with each individual with dementia, but also had to come to terms with the idiosyncracies (and occasionally inhuman practices) of the day centre, care home or hospital ward in which they are working – often side by side with professional staff who deserve and need considerable support, recognition and specialized training.
Despite these privations to be encountered, we hope you will not only be intrigued and stimulated by this taster of a developing field but will want to join the crusade.
John Killick, Susanna Howard
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For a full list of contents, click on the image or the link below. NAWE members logged into the site can read the full articles. You can also browse the complete back catalogue of previous issues