5 Creative Support Tools for Dementia
NUMBER 5: MY LIFE STORY
Compiling a ‘My Life’ story is something that people with dementia, family members and professional carers can benefit from. Due to problems with memory loss or communication, people with dementia sometimes need help to communicate their ‘story’ (those important aspects of their identity like background, interests, who and what is important to them).
By documenting and sharing their story, people with dementia can gain an increased sense of identity. It can help family carers develop closer relationships through sharing stories and make a positive contribution to the person’s care. Sometimes the carer discovers information they never knew! For professional carers, the person’s life story can help them to develop a better understanding of the person’s needs, improve communication and relationships, and deliver person-centred care.
NUMBER 4: EXPERIA CALMING SENSORY CART
A new innovation that has been tailored specifically for older adults, the Experia Sensory Cart has been designed to promote relaxation and is ideal to help those with dementia to relax, calm and de-escalate.
Extremely portable, the unit features the key ingredients in any sensory environment in one package:
- Calming LED Bubble Tube: both visually attractive and very relaxing.
- Calming Fibre Optic Sideglow: perfect for those with a visual impairment; holding the fibres close to the eye provides both a tactile sensation in the hand and stimulating lights to calm and sooth.
- Aurora LED Projector with liquid wheel: shine on the wall, ceiling or floor to create a distracting and calming effect.
- Integral Bluetooth amplifier and speakers with gesture control, making it even easier to play relaxing music of your choice.
- TV screen: ideal for reminiscence and distraction.
- DVD Player: allow the user to play a film of their choice.
- Twin wheeled castors: enable to unit to be moved easily from one room to another, meaning you can quickly get the equipment to where it is needed.
- High quality, strong and durable plywood construction: overlaid with hard-wearing, durable melamine film with a smooth, semi-gloss surface, the unit is maintenance free, hygienic and easy to clean.
With its unique design and inbuilt DVD player and screen, the Calming Sensory Cart is ideal for use in care homes, nursing homes, hospitals and homes where it can be used for reminiscence, de-escalation and calming. You can find out more about the Cart here or phone one of our sensory experts on 0800 612 6077 for more information.
NUMBER 3: DOLL THERAPY
As many as 60-90% of seniors with dementia struggle with some form of distress due to the disease. Some caregivers try to ease the burden by giving loved ones lifelike dolls to care for and love.
The dolls can become an integral part of a dementia suffer's life, as caring for the doll becomes a major part of their day to day responsibilities. This type of therapy is also said to bring back some happy memories of early parenthood and help make seniors feel needed and useful.
While there is growing support for using dolls in dementia care they aren’t without controversy. Those opposing their use (usually family members) suggest they are infantilising people by treating them as children, which is demeaning and fails to treat the person with respect and dignity.
However, one study completed in 2007 found that it could be used to increase positive behaviours in users, with researchers concluding that the therapy is an effective approach in caring for seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Alzheimers.org give the following helpful tips for using Doll Therapy should you wish to try this approach.
Consider the following suggestions when introducing a doll to your loved one:
- Communicate the purpose of the doll for anyone else who may be providing care.
- Do not force a doll on any senior: allow them to approach, hold and be stimulated by the doll on their own time.
- Do not call the doll a doll.
- Do not purchase a doll that cries out loud, as that could be upsetting.
- Provide a bassinet or small crib for the doll.
NUMBER 2: VINTAGE TRAIN CARRIAGE TAKES CARE HOME RESIDENTS BACK IN TIME
A care home is taking dementia patients on a trip back in time - with a room transformed into a vintage train carriage.
The railway room at Scarlet House features luggage racks, a table and opposite-facing seats and is designed to look just like an old-fashioned steam-era carriage.
A 60-inch TV screen sits where the window should be playing footage from a real journey - meaning 'passengers' can watch the English countryside roll by.
This environment works as it is all about reminiscence. You don’t need to go quite this far - you can create a similar environment using simple tools such as talking, viewing old photographs or listening to music to encourage a similar feeling of reminiscence.
NUMBER 1: THE DEMENTIA-FRIENDLY BARBER
Lenny White, 35, is a mobile barber from Northern Ireland who has made it his mission to make a difference for the men living with dementia in his local area. Nicknamed the ‘dementia-friendly barber’, Lenny bringing haircuts to the homes of those who aren’t able to get to their local barber shop. Whether it’s a care home, day centre, hospital or residential setting, Lenny recreates the traditional barber shop experience and helps restore some dignity to his customers. A big hit in Northern Ireland, he’s now setting his sights on the rest of the UK.
Having previously worked in a nursing home kitchen, Lenny noticed that the hairdressing services were often more tailored towards women – from the lighting and decor to the general conversation.
‘Men love getting together with other men and having a bit of banter,’ says Lenny. ‘Just because someone has dementia, it doesn’t mean they have to lose out on things like this.’
Check out his website here.
You might not live close enough to Lenny to benefit from his services, but dementia-friendly businesses are around and are now easy to locate via Dementiafriends.org.uk.
Statistics show that less than half (47%) of people living with dementia feel a part of their community, while over a quarter (28%) say they have given up even getting out of the house. So whether it’s a bank, library or local shop, dementia-friendly businesses clearly have a huge role to play. You can encourage your local businesses to become ‘Dementia Friends’ by taking part in this initiative, which offers best practice guidance to organisations, helping them to become dementia-friendly.
*Dementia statistics courtesy of Alzheimer’s Research.
** Via Dementia Care, the ‘Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Provider of the Year for the North East of England’ at the 2017 Social Care Awards.
If you or someone you know is diagnosed with dementia, you are not alone. There are over 850,00 people living with dementia in the UK. By 2025 this number is expected to rise to over 1 million and by 2050 this is projected to raise to over 2 million*.
Although some symptoms are common to many people with dementia (our previous blog talked about ‘what is dementia’ and common symptoms), each person's experience of the disease and how they cope with it will be different. Essentially the way each person with dementia feels and experiences life is down to more than just having the condition… Other factors play a huge role in shaping someone's experience; these include the relationships the person has, their environment and the support they receive. Current research encourages experimentation as the key to finding a solution that works for each individual**.
We therefore take a look at the more creative approaches and strategies that are helping some people with dementia in their goal of leading an active, purposeful life and to carry on doing the things that matter to them most.