Thriving With Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST)

“I notice a difference in him. He has lots to talk about after attending a Memory Matters Workshop. We have good conversations. He wasn’t talking much before” This was a recent comment from the wife of one of our Memory Matters Workshop attendees.

The benefits of Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) has been well-recorded through clinical trials*. Not only does it increase language skills, increase cognition (thinking skills) and quality of life but it also has benefits for staff and volunteers.

One Memory Matters workshop facilitator, Annie Cruse said “I find the workshops really rewarding. It enriches my life- I’m learning every day from the people in our groups. We build meaningful relationships with people. It’s a privilege to be in a moment where you get a snapshot of reminiscence. You get some real gems of moments”

Another facilitator, Clarinda Clancy said, “ it’s great when you see someone who was uneasy and apprehensive to begin with, with a big smile on their face.”

CST, despite having been around for over 20 years, and having been recommended by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence since 2006 still isn’t readily available to everyone living with mild to moderate dementia and Memory Matters is on a mission to change that.

“There is definitely a postcode lottery,” says Laura Walker, Co-founder and Joint CEO of Memory Matters. “We see some excellent examples of good practice in different parts of the country, where we train people in the core skills. But there are also areas where people just don’t have access to it at all.

CST fits well into any NHS run memory service and is now included as one of the key standards for accreditation by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. It gives the opportunity for a light touch pathway where people are in touch with professionals on a regular basis where any concerns and issues can be picked up and dealt with quickly, averting the need for more resource-intensive intervention.

After the initial 14-week treatment group there is a need for good maintenance sessions. This where the benefits of CST can be maintained through regular contact with peers and a trained facilitator through Memory Matters Workshops for as long as a person may benefit.

Over the last ten years, Memory Matters have been experimenting and blending CST with movement, social time and the promotion of activities of daily living through their Memory Matters Workshops. This research and development have been funded for the past four years by the Big Lottery.

Memory Matters run a short day course to give people the basics in facilitating CST but have found from their research that there are often barriers to putting what they have learnt in to practice.

“We have listened to past learners who have attended our short training, taken time to understood their barriers to getting good quality sustainable groups running in their areas and responded to their need”

We are really excited to have launched our Memory Matters Fellowship that gives ongoing support to our Fellowship members which means that they don’t feel alone and are able to overcome any set-up difficulties they face. They will receive immersive training, meaning that they are confident and skilled to run workshops with the ethos of Memory Matters. Access to evaluation software enables them to measure the outcomes of their groups including cost savings to the NHS.

They receive tried and tested session plans to take the headache out of planning, resources, a supportive online VIP group and access to Kate and Laura, co-founders of Memory Matters. Fellowship members will also receive visits from experienced Memory Matters Facilitators on a regular basis.

Memory Matters vision is to create a world in which people living with dementia are empowered and thriving in their community. For people living with mild to moderate dementia, CST is a part of this.

“I’d like to see people get seamless CST provision from diagnosis and beyond from the NHS to community, 3rd sector and private sector. People supported, stimulated and having fun, whether that be in a village hall, pub, residential/ care home, retirement village or memory café.

Want to find out more and learn the basics in CST?

Book on to our short one day course taking place at Moments Café, Plymouth on Tuesday 24th March 

* Spector A, Thorgrimsen L, Woods B, Royan L, Davies S, Butterworth M, Orrell M: A randomised controlled trial investigating the effectiveness of an evidence-based cognitive stimulation therapy programme for people with dementia. British Journal of Psychiatry. 2003, 183: 248-254. 10.1192/bjp.183.3.248.