In establishing Unforgettable, the vision of the company’s founder, James Ashwell, was to make life-changing products, designed to improve the quality of life for people living with dementia and family carers, readily available via an on-line marketplace. Since joining Unforgettable in January this year, I have been impressed by the diversity and range of products that have been sourced. I am enjoying working with Adam Vaughan, Head of New Product Development and Innovation. I am keen to support Unforgettable in the innovation process, identifying unmet needs and challenges and co-designing new products with people living with dementia and family carers to ensure that they are fit for the purpose intended, whilst also ensuring that retail prices are affordable.

For my blog this week, I have picked out some of the products that I have seen used in people’s own homes and in care settings, to good effect, and I’ve described some of the positive outcomes that I’ve witnessed.

For people with mild cognitive impairment and those newly diagnosed with early dementia, everyday life will most often carry on in the usual way. However, to remain healthy and well and to fend off the worst effects of dementia for as long as possible, keeping active is important, and this applies to mental stimulation as well as physical exercise.

Unforgettable has a wide range of products designed to stimulate the brain, creatively and in numbers and words. With our activity-based products, people are engaged in using a spread of cognitive skills.

Colouring books are popular for mindful activity. A range of colouring books of varying complexity is available for people living with dementia from the Unforgettable marketplace.

Unforgettable partnered with the Puzzler magazine to produce a special edition for people living with dementia. This resource has been designed for a range of cognitive abilities and comes with a handy guide to activities for family and professional carers. I have worked with a number of families who have found this special issue of the Puzzler very helpful, to dip in and out of and to choose suitable activities. Every person with dementia is different, just as every person is different. Not everyone likes word searches and crosswords, but for those that do, these activities are very absorbing.

Active Minds have been a leader in producing high quality dementia activity products for the health and care sector since 2010. A wide range of Active Minds products are available in the Unforgettable marketplace. I particularly like Aquapaints: suitable for people with moderate dementia, these easy to use painting sets require only water and a paintbrush to bring colour and visibility to pre-created images. The colour then fades away and disappears, enabling the Aquapaint pictures to be used again and again.

Jigsaw puzzles, in a range of sizes and with mature attractive images, are an engaging activity for many people with dementia – again, if a person liked jigsaw puzzles before they were diagnosed with dementia, they are likely to find this kind of activity rewarding post diagnosis. Unforgettable sells a wide selection of jigsaws, from Active Minds and from other suppliers.

The personalised jigsaw puzzle, that is created bespoke using a photograph supplied by the person’s family, is popular product. I have known families who have found this jigsaw very helpful, both in terms of the activity itself, and its value for prompting memories and reminiscence conversations.

People with dementia can become disorientated in time and space and having anchor points of reference in the living environment helps to address these difficulties. Unforgettable sells a range of clocks and watches with a range of helpful features that display the date, day, time, and whether it is morning, afternoon or evening. Different clocks will suit different people. Several of the clocks have multi-functionality, which means the display can be adapted as the person with dementia’s needs change over time.

Our own-branded 2-in-1 day clocks are best sellers. Supplied in a white or black surround, and in two different sizes (8” and 7”) these clocks come with two optional display screens, one a more traditional display providing details of date (including the year) day and time, the other much more simplified, informing the person with dementia what time of day it is now: “Now it’s Friday Morning”.

Unforgettable has also produced a day clock version that has five optional screen displays and reminders. Designed in consultation with the Unforgettable community (family carers and people living with dementia) this clock is of particular value to people with dementia who are still able to manage their own routines but need a little help. The clock comes with 20 pre-loaded reminder messages eg “It’s time for breakfast” “It’s time to take tablets”; in addition, the clock has the facility to convey personalised reminders, and these can be added as text, audio or video, using a USB or SD card. This is a versatile product that has longevity of use. It has received overwhelmingly positive customer reviews.

Anxiety is commonplace for people with moderate to advanced dementia. Settling a person’s anxiety and easing their agitation is a concern for many families. We have a multitude of products that may help.

Arthur is one of my favourite products. He is a musical teddy bear, intuitively huggable, with soft tactile fur. Arthur has an in-built MP3 music player which can store up to 1000 songs, chosen as a personal playlist to suit the person with dementia’s tastes. Music is a powerful way to engage and reassure a person who is agitated and distressed. The multi-sensory qualities of Arthur provide for positive ‘in the moment’ experiences that can enrich interactions between family carers and the person with dementia.

The Fiddle Muff Activity Apron is another sensory product designed to relieve agitation and maximise engagement and occupation for people with moderate to advanced dementia. The apron includes a multitude of features, including four functional pockets made from tactile materials, a threaded lace, a squeezable stress ball located within the muff on the front of the apron and some clear plastic sleeves in which personal memorabilia can be inserted (photographs, special poems, memory prompts) attached to the apron with carabiner clips. What I like about this product is its quality: it is durable and versatile and has long-lasting potential.

My final product selection is the Simple Music Player, created by Designability, a charity partner of Unforgettable. People living with dementia were instrumental in its design. The music player comes with a ready selection of big band tunes; however, the real value of this product is the facility to upload a personal playlist for the person with dementia, ensuring that the music they will hear when they lift the lid to switch it on is absolutely right for them. Music has a calming effect, prompting memories and creating opportunities for conversations about special occasions and significant moments in a person’s life. I bought one of these music players for my father, who has mild cognitive impairment and is ‘on the cusp’ of early stage dementia. It is a perfect product for him. The simplicity of the on/off mechanism – lift the lid/close the lid – means that he has access to a wide range of music that he would otherwise be unable to listen to (he isn’t able to manage CDs and he doesn’t use electronic devices). He likes old songs and he loves to sing: I’ve been able to gather together a large selection of his most favourite tracks and his life has been much improved as a result. So this product, in particular, is highly recommended, both by me and by my Dad.

It seems obvious to say this, but it’s important to remember: not every product will suit every person with dementia. Each person with dementia is different and will have their own unique needs. If you do find a product that works for the person you care for, it may be that it will only be effective for a while. Dementia is progressive, people’s needs change over time, sometimes slowly, sometimes at a faster pace.

With this in mind, I genuinely believe that you will find something in our range that will be of value for you and the person you care for; we are dedicated to improving the experiences and life quality for people living with dementia and their families.

I have written about a small selection of products available in the Unforgettable marketplace. The range is wide and diverse, and I would encourage you to take a thorough look. Please let us know if you have found a particular product beneficial, or if something you have purchased from Unforgettable could be improved or adapted to better meet your needs. We are keen to know how we are helping, and, importantly too, any ways in which we could help you more.

Contact me at askbarbara@unforgettable.org