Living with Dementia is a challenge, but it is not something which should limit a person’s happiness or quality of life. Care organisations are showing incredible innovation in providing superb person-centred care to enrich the lives of their residents living with Dementia. Providing a high quality of care should be of the utmost importance to all those within the care sector, and it has been incredible to see emerging activities which are proving incredibly beneficial to those living with Dementia.

We have seen developments within technology which is supporting many with stimulating activities, as well as other non-technical but equally beneficial activities such as music therapy. The thing to note is that you don’t have to spend a fortune on expensive equipment to provide a high quality of activities to enhance the lives of those with Dementia.

Music Therapy

Music has a connection with every person, from infants to the elderly. This is because a different part of your brain is used to process music over language. Therefore, those who cannot express their thoughts or feelings through speech often find music to be a channel in which they can express themselves.

For those with Dementia, music can also be very reminiscent. Music can obviously trigger different memories or feelings within a person due to their personal circumstances, therefore it is recommended to start with gentle, quiet music to judge the reaction of that person before experimenting with other genres. Research undertaken has shown the majority of the time, a person living with Dementia will respond positively. However, this is different for all people, so it is important to keep a close eye on the person for any signs of distress or discomfort.

Music therapy has also shown to be a great way of reducing social isolation and to promote group activities. It is also a great way to promote physical activities; whether that be in the form of clapping or getting up for a dance.

Music therapy is a fantastic example of how a care home can provide person-centred care to those with dementia at little to no cost to the organisation.

Chores

Yep, you read that right. Tasks such as folding clothing, sweeping, tending to the garden or even just organising items can be incredibly meaningful for someone with dementia. It is about striking the right balance between non-strenuous and stimulating tasks. These examples seem to be a big hit! Keeping active is incredibly beneficial for one’s cognitive abilities. It is also a nice way to socially interact with each other, allowing for communication whilst still undertaking an activity together.

Animal Therapy

Animal therapy comes in many forms; whether that be bringing your dog to work or arranging for a company such as ‘Zoo Lab’ to come into your care home with an array of animals. Animal therapy has seen a vast increase in social interaction and reduces agitation.

Animal visits also promote physical activities such as grooming, throwing a ball or even taking a dog for a stroll. Oddly, there has also been observations to suggest that people with Dementia have an increased appetite after being around animals, which is a great benefit for many!

Obviously, if you wanted to introduce an animal into your care environment you must take the animals nature into account. A boisterous German Shepherd may not be the most suitable animal to bring into a care home and don’t forget that not everyone likes dogs (hard to believe, I know!) therefore for some residents, you may be causing distress rather than comfort. But like all activities, it is paramount to stay person-centred with your approach and figure out what works best with each resident to ensure a high quality of care.

Tovertafel/Magic Tables

Now, this one comes at a bit more of an expense. Tovertafels (meaning ‘magic table’ in Dutch) is a high tech interactive table in which imagery is projected onto the table top allowing you to interact with its projections. They were first invented in Holland in 2014 and have been a huge success. The UK was the first country to have imported these devices and have been seen to succeed in many environments from hospitals, nursing/care homes, day centres and libraries.

The Tovertafel’s start at around £7,000, so it’s certainly not as cost effective as other forms of activities. However, the response has been so positive that organisations aren’t put off by their price tag. There are currently around 2,500 Tovertafel’s are in use in the UK. It can be argued that in the long term the Tovertafel is actually more cost effective than other activities such as music therapy. This is because a carer can boost interactions between a group of 5 or 6 residents at a time, rather than 1 to 1 care.

Evidence shows there has been an exceptional response to the Tovertafel by people living with Dementia. The bright colours and interactivity of the activity stimulate the resident’s brain and encourages social interaction between one another; relieving irritation and promoting happiness.

To wrap up…

There are so many different person-centred approaches to caring for your residents, and due to the nature of being ‘person-centred’, not everything will work the same way for each resident. It is therefore important to not only try out different activities but also monitor your residents to ascertain how they are reacting. Not everyone will like having animals around, and not everyone will like listening to the UK Top 40. Experiment, and work with your residents family to work out the types of music they used to listen to, or what animals they used to keep. All of these will start to paint a larger picture around your resident, allowing you to tailor the care you provide to ensure you’re offering the highest possible quality of care.