Kinghorn Tool Shed sessions prove a lifesaver for people with dementia

David Sinclair enjoys his Tool Shed sessions
David Sinclair enjoys his Tool Shed sessions

A new project introduced at The Ecology Centre in Kinghorn is helping men suffering from dementia to cope better and break down some of the barriers around them.

The centre’s special Tool Shed sessions for those with dementia offer a safe haven where men can go to participate in workshops to restore old tools and machinery, with a specially qualified care worker to support them and ensure their wellbeing.

John Alexander fixes up an old bicycle

John Alexander fixes up an old bicycle

And, although it has only been operating one day a week for around three months, it is already proving a “lifesaver” for families in the area.

The sessions have been introduced as part of the Ecology Centre programme after a six-month pilot project proved a big success.

It now runs weekly sessions on Thursdays from 10am to 12.30pm for three people with dementia who have the opportunity to spend time fixing tools, sewing machines, bikes and other equipment in the centre’s Tool Shed premises, a workshop made from converted shipping containers.

David Alexander (78), from Burntisland has been going along since the sessions started in August. His wife Nancy who describes herself as “his chaffeur” has seen a tremendous improvement in him since he started taking part.

The Tool Shed's dementia team at work

The Tool Shed's dementia team at work

“He looks forward to coming to the Tool Shed so much that if he knows it’s his day for coming here he is up and dressed and waiting for me to bring him really early,” she explained.

“Most other days he is still lying in his bed and not interested in getting up. The transformation has been amazing.

“He usually sits at home just watching television and not wanting to go out and not saying much, but when he comes here he chats away and he comes home telling me how many tools he has cleaned and what he had for his lunch.

“He loves the people and the company and it has been a real lifesaver for both of us as I feel happy to leave him here knowing he is enjoying himself and is being well looked after.”

The project is funded from a grant from Lloyds TSB which covers the cost of employing Susan Harvey, a social care worker to support the participants.

Susan said: “I work in a residential care home in Cupar and started coming along here as a volunteer to help with making the lunches.

“When the dementia sessions were starting I was offered the chance to work with them and I jumped at it as it is an extension of the work I do daily.

“It is a great idea and you can really see the improvement in those attending within a session or two. They just seem to relax and open up and it is maybe something to do with it being like being back in a work environment.

“We have actually introduced it at the care home and the staff and volunteers from here came along with tools and let them have a go and they loved it.”

Jo Hobbett, projects manager at the Ecology Centre, added: “Our pilot project showed great results, so we decided to run a weekly session as part of our projects programme. We decided three people was the maximum we could have at the one time in the workshop, and we are now looking at the possibility of running a second session because they are going so well.

“It is a carefully monitored project and a review of each person is carried out every six weeks to ensure they are still well enough to take part.”

Lee Brown, Tool Shed officer, said: “I started out as a volunteer last November and just recently took over the running of the Tool Shed.

“It is great to do something you really enjoy and to know that people also appreciate what you are doing and that it is putting a smile on their faces is a great feeling too.”