The manager of a care home in Kew has won a national award for her pilot of a memory film project for residents with dementia.

Fiona Saadat runs Cecil Court on Priory Road where therapeutic autobiographical films have been created for 15 residents with memory problems.

Fiona was crowned ‘Care Innovator’ at the Great British Care Awards in London on Saturday 26th November. “I am thrilled to have won,” said Fiona, “It’s recognition of our focus on people’s care at Cecil Court, and how we are always working to do the best we can. This is the first time these films have been used in a residential home and the benefits are already clear. People’s anxieties can be reduced, they can be encouraged to eat and generally feel much happier and more content.”

Although Fiona had originally entered the ‘dementia’ category in the Awards, the judges felt her pilot scheme made her a winner in innovation.

“Taking an idea, making it happen and being passionate about the benefit each personalised film makes to her residents living with dementia, and their families, makes her an inspirational winner,” they said.

According to figures from the Alzheimer’s Society*, there are an estimated 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia and 80% of residents in UK care homes have dementia or a severe memory problem.

The films are created by the Richmond-based charity My Life Films, and have been awarded Outstanding Dementia Care Product of the Year at this year’s National Dementia Care Awards.

The half hour films feature photographs and significant objects from their lives, interviews with them and members of their families, all set to their favourite music.

They are shown to residents at least once a week and staff are given a five-minute narrated version to help them better understand the person they are caring for.

Their impact on residents’ mood and quality of life is being assessed by My Life Films and doctors at South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust.

95 year old Olive Allsop moved into Cecil Court, run by C&C, 11 months ago. Her son, Christopher, says her film has had a huge impact on her. “Late afternoons can be a very low part of the day for her,” he said. “She gets quite anxious and in the past she’s needed medication. But this is when the staff sit with her and put her film on and it calms her down, to the extent that her medication has been reduced and, at times, avoided altogether."

“She was from a big Irish family and was devoted to her parents but she reached a point where couldn’t recognise them in photographs anymore. With the narration on the film and the Irish music in the background she can spot them now.”

The most touching effect of the film has been her ability to recognise her late husband who died 41 years ago. “I would have expected her to remember him,” said Christopher, “but his photos mean little to her until she sees them in the film. Then she refers to him by name and says, ‘wasn’t he a good-looking man’. “The film gives her enormous pleasure and it gives me and my siblings a pleasant half an hour with our mother, something we’ve struggled to do in recent times because of her dementia.”

“We would like all of our residents with memory problems to be able to have their own film,” said Fiona. “I hope that by winning this award it will show other homes what is possible, the benefits to staff as well as residents, and encourage them to bring this kind of initiative in.”

Based on information supplied by Lisa Pettifer.