A physiotherapist at Barnet Hospital has written a book to help young children gain a greater understanding of how people are affected by dementia.
Physiotherapy team lead Katie Faulkner, who specialises in caring for patients living with dementia, wrote the book, Big Bear, Little Bear and Dementia, for children who might have a relative with the condition. Katie collaborated with artist Iain Welch, who provided the drawings.
When Katie was eight years old, her own great grandmother was diagnosed with dementia, and so she understands some of the difficulties families face when a loved one has this condition.
“It’s difficult to understand it all when you are very young,” said Katie. “I know that my family shielded me from a lot of it, but it can be hurtful when someone you love doesn’t recognise you any more.
“This book is a way of helping children understand what is happening and it can also help an adult who is reading it to them because they will also be going through an emotive time. The book can help you understand that it is ok to feel angry or upset that someone you love has been diagnosed with dementia.”
The book tells the story of a bear who puts books containing their memories on to a book shelf – the newest memory books are placed on the top shelves of the book case. But dementia makes the bookshelf shake, so the books at the top are the first to fall meaning those memories can no longer be accessed. The book goes on to explain, however, that those memories are stored safely in the bear’s heart.
Katie said that she wanted to create a story that would feel inclusive.
“Most of the material out there is very focused on older women – however this condition can effect a wide range of people and I wanted to create a story that could apply to anyone,” she said.
Katie had the idea for the book during lockdown.
“I wanted to do something useful instead of scrolling through TikTok,” she added. “I tried painting and crocheting but I was terrible.
“Then Iain, who specialises in pet portraits, did a painting of my dog and I thought the way he captures animals is so beautiful. I asked if he would collaborate with me on this book and he agreed and it just escalated from there.”
Although Katie has published the book herself, she has had offers from six different publishers and she hopes to take it forward with one of them.
She said: “I have been posting the books out to buyers, but I’ve now sold around 70 copies and it’s got to the point where I don’t have capacity to do this on my own - so I think I will look at working with a publisher instead.
“The feedback from people who’ve read the book has been amazing, this is a complete passion project for me so I am so pleased it’s been really well-received. I would love to take it around schools to raise awareness of dementia among children.
“Lockdown has been really difficult for people living with dementia as they have not been able to access some of the services they would have done normally and they’ve become very isolated. I really hope this book can help in some way by raising awareness of this condition.”