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How watching cricket can help people with dementia and their carers
This article looks at how a shared activity such as cricket can help people with dementia and their family carers have a positive experience.
Caring for a person with dementia is reported by families to be associated with significant psychological, physical, financial and social consequences.1,2 As a result, necessary support such as respite care is often required.3 However, it also important to encourage better emotional connect between carers and the person with dementia. Reminiscence therapy and recalling past events is associated with positive outcomes for both people with dementia and their carers.4,5
Against this background, this article reviews the impact of sharing an activity, such as watching cricket together, on the person with dementia and their family carers.
As cricket is a popular summer sport, especially with the older population used to listening commentaries on the Test Match Special (TMS), Middlesex County Cricket Club (MCCC) and Dementia Carers Count (DCC) charity piloted a family day for people with the early stages of dementia. This was to allow them and their family carers to jointly watch their favourite sporting activity, enjoy the camaraderie, and reminisce about their fond cricketing moments.
MCCC provided thirty pairs of free tickets to people with dementia and their carers to watch MCCC play county test match. As this was a pilot, tickets were provided for two county test matches (one day for each of four-day county matches), and tickets were made available and administered through the DCC charity website.
Staff from DCC, along with stewards from Lords cricket ground, who were offered free dementia awareness training by DCC, operated a stand for the guests considering proximity to amenities such as food stalls and restrooms, as well as ease of access from the gate, parking, and disability access.
Family carers were in contact with DCC staff through the process of registration and accessing tickets as well as having their concerns clarified. Following their attendance, family carers were contacted for feedback of their experience as well as their suggestions for making cricket in particular accessible to people with dementia and their carers. Feedback was also collected from staff involved in this project.
The 20 family carers who took part reported a very positive experience and provided useful suggestions towards improving procedures and logistics for future events (Table 1).
Table 1. Carer feedback of cricket day for people with dementia
This pilot project provides strong evidence from feedback of carers of people with dementia that a day out with their loved one to watch cricket enriches conversation and positive expressed emotion between the person with dementia and their carer.
This is very important as older caregivers to persons with dementia are at increased risk of high depressive symptoms. Depression occurs in one in three of caregivers and it occurs more frequently in those who care for patients with dementia than in caregivers of patients with other chronic illnesses.1
Carer stress is associated with higher levels of psychosis, mood disturbances, daytime sleep and cognitive fluctuations in the person with dementia.2
Caregivers who more frequently used the coping strategies ‘seeking distraction’, ‘seeking social support’, and ‘fostering reassuring thoughts’ experienced less emotional reactivity towards stressful daily events.
This project provided opportunities for the carer and the person with dementia to enjoy a day out, engage in conversations on cricket as recalled by the person with dementia and break the cycle of conversations focused on behaviour and needs, which can cause frustration on both parties.
Engagement of carers in activities such as vacations, sport, hobbies and going out to work are considered important. Yet, respite for carers is often fraught with challenges and the actual usage of formal respite services by carers of persons with dementia has been repeatedly shown to be relatively low. This leads to the hypothesis that such respite services may not be satisfying carer needs or there are negative connotations associated with its use, such as the person with dementia is a burden, that the carer is not able to cope and respite is primarily for the carer’s benefit.3 The advantage of having a joint day out is that person with dementia is with the family carer and the carer will not have to be anxious or worried about the family member with dementia being at home or in care with unfamiliar care settings.
Studies identify loneliness as a likely point of intervention to reduce caregiver stress. Initiatives to enable caregivers to maintain or develop social relationships apart from caregiver responsibilities may mitigate stress and its negative impact on mental and physical health.6 This project also heard from family carers who were positive about meeting peers, and it helped with managing their perception of being isolated.
Reminiscence therapy is shown to have some positive effects on people with dementia in the domains of quality of life, cognition, communication and mood.5 Although this was not a formal reminiscence therapy setting, most of the conversation was reminiscing about cricket and this had helped with positive emotion as experienced both by the person with dementia and their carer, leading to conversations about joint visit to other sporting venues, performing arts centres and art galleries.
For such events to become accessible to people with dementia and their carers, there is a need for organisers and staff at sporting and art venues to become familiar with understanding people with dementia and their needs and being able to positively support carers who visit such venues with their family member with dementia.
Sports and arts can bring together people with dementia and their family carers helping to enrich conversations. They also build on the strength of the long-term memory of a person with dementia. Sports and art venues do have a duty towards making their venues accessible for people with dementia by providing appropriate training for their staff and ensuring the environment is tailored for people with dementia. Carers of people with dementia will benefit from respite events that involve sharing positive experiences and creating new memories.
Dr V R Badrakalimuthu, Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist, Surrey & Borders Partnership NHS, Foundation Trust, Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guildford
L Munowenyu, Integrated Care Team Leader, Surrey & Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Theta Frimley
Conflict of interest: Dr V R Badrakalimuthu is a specialist trustee with Dementia Carers Count, and member of Middlesex County Cricket Club
Acknowledgements: Julie Blakesley and Lorraine Fletcher from MCCC, Kirsty Stephenson, Sue Hinds, Iona-Jane Harris, Rachell Allen and team from DCC
- Del-Pino-Casado R, Cardosa MR, Lopez-Martinez C & Orgeta V. The association between subjective caregiver burden and depressive symptoms in carers of older relatives: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS One 2019. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0217648
- Lee DR, McKeith I, Mosimann U et al. Examining carer stress in dementia: the role of subtype diagnosis and neuropsychiatric symptoms. In J Geriatr Psychiatry 2013; 28: 135-141
- Neville C, Beattie E, Fielding E, MacAndrew M. Literature review: use of respite by carers of people with dementia. Health & Soc care in the Community 2014; (1), 51-63
- Van Knippenberg RJM, de Vugt ME, Ponds RW & Verhey FRJ. Emotional reactivity to daily life stress in spousal caregivers of people with dementia: An experience sampling study. 2018 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0194118
- Woods B, O’Philbin L, Farrell EM et al (2018) Reminiscence therapy for dementia. Cochrane 3(3):CD001120.
- Peavy G, Mayo AM, Avalos C et al (2022) Perceived Stress in Older Dementia Caregivers: Mediation by Loneliness and Depression. Am J Alzheimers Dis Other Demen, 37:15333175211064756.