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Cultivating Joy in Dementia Care Through Activities

Posted by on 5/23/2014
Colin McDonnell, Care Service Manager of Starrett Lodge in Australia, sets the stage on this video about how they help their patients with dementia have purposeful and joyful days. He asks, what would you feel like if you woke up each day and did not know how old you were, where you were living, if you had been married or if you had kids? This is what patients with dementia experience, and it is frightening and lonely. But Starrett Lodge has found ways to replace those feelings with joy and comfort. Here are a few highlights, but watch the video to see the residents and how this wonderful approach truly works.

Changing Communication with Patients with Dementia 

A connection between dementia patients and caregivers

Starrett Lodge staff not only meet the physical needs of the patient, such as feeding, toilet use, and showers.  Instead, they are trained and supported to form relationships with the patients.  They also give the patients choices and let them help make decisions - true person-centered care. Staff is also trained to be present and joyful themselves at work. Colin says, that if staff is not happy, the residents will not be happy.

Reducing Behaviors with Patients with Dementia

The Lodge has changed its environment to add light.  Increased light helps alleviate depression and encourages more social interaction.  Colin says they decreased agitation by 47%, and also decreased depression and increased quality of life.  Cathy Greenblat, sociologist, explains that often the symptoms we see with dementia, such as anxiety, are not so much due to the disease process but rather due to the way the person is being treated.  Instead, if the person is encouraged and supported and feels a connection to those around them, these behaviors or tendencies may disappear.


Activities Based on the True Identity of the Person with Dementia

The Lodge uses methods to get to know the past history of their patients with dementia.  Where were they born, what are their favorite things?  They use skills that still remain for the person as a basis for activities, so that everyone is engaged, no matter the degree of impairment.  They ask the question, "Why is this person still alive?" and how can they inspire and support to allow living life in these later years?


Video from Starrett Lodge: Finding the Why- Enabling Active Participation in Life in Aged Care

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2 Comments

Victoria Orlando
Date: 5/28/2014
Priceless! There are many timeless and life-giving values brought to life and activity at Starrett Lodge - all so needed around the work in dementia care. But the one principle that stands out is that every person, regardless of memory loss, truly has a reason to live and to live joyfully each day. So often, this basic purpose, place and preciousness of a person are taken away with the diagnosis.Not so, not so...
Lauretta Kaldor
Date: 5/28/2014
What a great movie! By having all staff work together as a team you can achieve true person centred care. Colin is a real leader. we should clone him!

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