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Dickens classic used in the battle with dementia


A dementia specialist, a linguist and Ryman Healthcare have teamed up together to produce a book they hope will help revive the joy of reading for people with dementia.

A Christmas Carol, launched at the Julia Wallace Retirement Village in Palmerston North, is an adaption of Charles Dickens’ classic tale.

The book includes beautiful illustrations and has been written to be easily understood and accessible for patients with dementia and has been sponsored by Ryman Healthcare, New Zealand’s largest retirement village operator.

There are an estimated 60,000 New Zealanders with dementia and this is set to grow to 154,000 by 2050, according to Alzheimer’s New Zealand. There are an estimated 45 million sufferers around the world.

Dr Sally Rimkeit, a psycho-geriatrician who practices in Wellington and teaches at the University of Otago, Wellington, says the book was aimed at providing an accessible read for dementia sufferers.

 “Many of these people have been avid readers throughout their adult lives. With the onset of dementia, they can no longer enjoy this pastime, because reading books produced for adults who are not cognitively challenged has become too difficult. Sometimes people with dementia are fobbed off with children’s books, which they find demeaning and infantilizing. This is all about reviving the pure joy of reading.’’

Drs Rimkeit and Claridge are also using the book as the basis of a study into how dementia patients read.

“There is good evidence that cognitive stimulation has proven benefits to dementia patients, and can help maintain neural networks, slowing the process of decline. Reading represents a form of cognitive stimulation and studies have shown that reading improves the quality of life of both the person with dementia and of her carers, and reduces the incidence of depression.’’

Dr Gill Claridge is an applied linguist and is Dean of the Faculty of International Studies at IPU New Zealand Tertiary Institute at Palmerston North. She adapted Dickens’ classic tale about the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge.  

“A Christmas Carol is a wonderful story which will be familiar to many of the people who read it. It is hard to improve on the words of Dickens, but it has been written to be as easily accessible – with the help of beautiful classic illustrations – as possible.

Ryman Healthcare Managing Director Simon Challies said it was a pleasure to be able to lend a hand to get the book out.

“We jumped at the chance to support such a worthwhile cause. We will be spreading copies far and wide throughout our villages in time for Christmas.’’

Dr Rimkeit and Dr Claridge have set up a publishing venture called Dovetale Press www.dovetalepress.com and have other dementia-friendly books in the pipeline.

About Ryman: Ryman Healthcare was founded in Christchurch in 1984 and owns and operates 30 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia. Ryman villages are home to 9,000 residents, and the company employs 4,000 staff.


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