About Me

Simon O’Donovan MBE has worked in NHS Wales for most of his adult life, supporting people with dementia, their carers and families and developing and improving services to benefit this client group. 

He recently retired from working as a Community Mental Health Nurse within a Young Onset Dementia Service and continues to contribute to weekly CST 'Friendship Group' sessions as a volunteer co-facilitator.


He has been keeping a weekly 'Young Dementia CST Blog' to share and archive tried and tested activities resources, with the ultimate aim of providing an 'off the shelf' resource library of weekly themed CST sessions which can be used on rotation throughout the year. 


The main aim of this website is to share experience and resources freely, in order that others can dip in and out and use some or all of the materials provided in their own CST work. Thus it is hoped, facilitating and supporting the provision of uplifting and enjoyable sessions that optimise people with dementia's quality of life.

This site is not owned by or affiliated to any organisation. It’s a personal commitment, a not for profit exchange of ideas and a resource library which aims to enable more widespread use of CST approaches for people with dementia. 

To this end, 'Guest Blogs' are VERY welcome, but bearing in mind that no images of clients are to be used without their express written informed consent.

Please note that some images are reproduced on this blog from the internet under the 'fair use copyright' principle, in that they will only be used for educational purposes with disability groups and in no way will be linked to profit making activities.


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  • Simon O'Donovan

Cariad Dementia Cafe

At the start of our first 'Cariad Dementia Cafe' session of 2020, we wished each other a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. We asked how people had seen in the new year, who stayed up to watch the fireworks, who had had a glass of champagne or a kiss at midnight, or who had gone to bed early?

We watched a video clip of the Big Ben countdown and fireworks on the Thames and across capital cities in the world. We remembered that Auckland, New Zealand, is the first big city to see in the New Year, some 13 hours ahead of us. Honolulu, Hawaii, is the last at 10 hours behind us.


Next, we looked at this adorable video of a school nativity play, which featured a little girl trying to out perform her classmates and stealing the show. We asked, had anyone been to a school nativity play or carol concert this year, or seen 'Carols From Kings' on Christmas Eve?


We then discussed who had watched what over Christmas? Most of us had seen the 'Gavin And Stacey Christmas Special', 11.6m in fact. This was far more than had watched the 'Queen's Christmas Broadcast, which drew in an audience of 7.85m. We agreed that HRH should probably change the time of her speech, as it is on when most of us are enjoying our turkey dinner.

Next, we asked around the room 'Who had had the best Christmas present?'. We had gotten a new puppy, Narla, so that topped the bill. We also asked if anyone had any presents to 'regift' yet?

We then asked whether anyone had made any new year's resolutions, and if any had already been broken? The usual list includes, giving up smoking, losing weight, stopping drinking, going to the gym, getting fit, get rid of debts, be kinder to people etc.

We asked if anyone was doing 'Dry January'? We discussed the benefits of having a clearer head after imbibing more alcohol than usual over the holidays, the benefits to physical health and fitness and of course to mental health.

We also discussed 'Veganuary' and asked if anyone was adjusting their eating habits this month, or year? We discussed who had eaten turkey on Christmas Day, or who had tired something new, such as a nut loaf? We noted research from The Times, which stated in last 'Veganuary' 3.6m fewer animals had been killed for meat in the UK.

Next, it was time for our first song, 'January' by Pilot. Here's the YouTube link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnQZ5AHUk2U

It was then time for some jokes, from @DadJokeMan

Someone’s replaced my passport photo with a picture of a seasonal fruit and marzipan cake... I think my identity’s been stollen...


Every Christmas at our house we have pigs in blankets... Although I suppose I should really call them the in-laws...


I just saw a German bloke jump into a freezing cold pond to rescue a dog who was drowning! He climbed out, handed over the dog and said,“Here is ze dog, dry him off, keep him vorm, he vill be fine.” I said, “Are you a vet?” He replied “Vet?? - I’m f*****g soaking!”


Merry Christmas! I was going to have Bucks Fizz for breakfast this morning but I'm having trouble making my mind up...


When my wife gets out of bed, she likes to put on a school boys uniform, a school cap and speak in a Scottish accent... She’s always a little Krankie in the morning...


I really must clear up the Pringles I trod into my carpet yesterday...

It's beginning to look a lot like crisp mush.


Bono was ill the evening before they recorded ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’, but he was very relieved to only be diagnosed with catarrh rather than something more serious... “Well tonight thank God it’s phlegm instead of flu....”


'Story Of The Week' this week came from Kat @eeveeluti0n

This gave everyone a chuckle. We asked if anyone had had a hamster as a pet and if they could imagine this happening.

Another 'Story Of The Week' (well we have had two week's off!) came from @JustinHeckert. He wrote as follows:

My 64 y/o mother-in-law revealed to us at Christmas that she spent this past year “learning to play the fiddle." No one in the family had any idea; and then she played, beautifully, a dozen songs for us without looking at sheet music while we sat at the table in awe.

I am now going home not only with a huge smile on my face, but thinking that everything is still very much possible.

I just need to reiterate that this was a secret, meant to be shared during the holiday, and maybe the greatest reveal I’ve ever been present to witness. My father-in-law had no idea. Amanda had no idea.

Still resonating with us: that this was a dream that she never talked about; that she was playing on a violin that had been randomly kept in the family for decades; what it must’ve taken to walk into the little music store in Lyman, SC, and say this is something she wanted to do.

My sister-in-law, Sarah, who was also there said she’s only been practising seven months!

More people have commented on this than are in the town where she lives. This is probably one of the most sincere things I’ve ever tweeted, so thank you all so much for your stories—they inspire me, and her doing this was really something that I’ll never forget my entire life.

Next, we looked at a story from the BBC, about a lost Lowry painting. Here it is ...

The 1943 work, entitled 'The Mill, Pendlebury', depicts workers enjoying a day off and children playing cricket. "There are no records of it, we simply didn't know it existed," said British art expert Nick Orchard of Christie's auction house in London. The painting, which Lowry gave away, is expected to fetch between £700,000 and £1m when it goes on sale next month.

We asked who liked Lowry's style and next played the song 'Matchstalk Men And Matchstalk Cats And Dogs' by Brian And Michael. Link here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmopSVOMSsU

Our next story came from 'The Guardian', which highlighted that The Royal Mint has launched two new coins this year - a £2 coin celebrating the works of Agatha Christie and a 50p for the Tokyo Olympics, which is to be held this summer.

We asked who liked Agatha Christie books and films and completed the titles of some of them:

- Murder On The Orient EXPRESS

- Death On The NILE


- The Mirror Cracked From SIDE TO SIDE

- And Then There Were NONE


- The Murder Of Roger ACKROYD

- Evil Under The SUN

- The Body In The LIBRARY

We remembered her main characters MISS MARPLE and HERCULE POIROT.

Another coin had been announced this week, by 'BBC News'.

PJ Lynch who was born in Belfast and lives in Dublin designed the coin featuring a rat with a set of long twitchy whiskers.

Lynch is famous for his children's books and has served as Laureate na nÓg - or all-Ireland children's laureate.

The coin has been created to celebrate the 'Year Of The Rat' in the Chinese New Year. In Chinese culture, rats were seen as a sign of wealth and surplus. Because of their reproduction rate, married couples also prayed to them for children.

We reminded ourselves that one is said never to be further away than 6 feet from a rat, though in reality it is more like 3-30 metres away.

Some members had a fear of rats, so our next song was Al Stewart's 'Year Of The Cat. Link here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ak_MTXQALa0

Next, we reflected on the sad news that TV medium Derek Acorah had died, aged 69. We wondered if he had seen it coming? We asked around the room if anyone followed TV shows such as 'Most Haunted', or believed in the ability to speak with the dead?

Next, we looked at some pictures from @Bored Panda, which portrayed in graphic detail the impact of the devastating bush fires in Australia. We generally agreed that in such tragedy, the best in people is shown. https://www.boredpanda.com/australia-fires-photos/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=BPTwitter

To lighten the mood, we next looked at a video of a Collie dog playing a game of Jenga with his owner. We agreed that this was an amazing show of concentration and dexterity, especially considering he is only using his tongue and teeth. https://twitter.com/gmai_sutton/status/1210987691963244544?s=19

Finally, we discussed the 'Queen's New Year's Honours List'.

Olivia Newton-John had been made a Dame Of The British Empire, for her service to charity, cancer research and entertainment. We remembered that her three UK number 1 hits were 'You're The One That I Want', 1978, 'Summer Nights', 1978 & 'Xanadu', 1980 (with E.L.O.).

Floella Benjamin had been made a Dame, for her services to childrens' charities. We remembered she first came to our attention in the children's TV show 'PlaySchool', way back in the 1970s.

Other honours included:

Sam Mendes - Knighthood for services to drama

Steve McQueen - Knighthood for services to art and film

Wendy Craig - CBE for services to drama and charity

Annie Nightingale - CBE for services to radio

Ben Stokes - OBE for services to cricket

Roger Taylor - OBE for services to music

Ainsley Harriott - MBE for services to broadcasting and the culinary arts

Jill Scott - MBE for services to women's football

Nadiya Hussein - MBE for services to broadcasting and culinary arts

& Harry Billinge - MBE for services to charity (Second World War veteran).

We discussed the merits of the UK Honours system and discussed if anyone had ever received an award such as an OBE or MBE, or other honour, medal or badge.

We finished by watching a video of Floella Benjamin telling us how important DBE is to her.


And last but not least, we played two additional songs by way of celebration.

'Xanadu', by Olivia Newton John - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWeJ9p42ufg

& 'Auld Langs Syne', of course - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvJRmdN9iyU