Dementia is the result of a number of conditions mainly Alzheimer’s disease. Its symptoms are diverse and may affect people in different ways. It’s a progressive disease and one which brings with it a journey of heartache and pain for the person and their caregivers.
One of the things a person with dementia may find is the difficulty to initiate a conversation or an activity themselves. When no one else does anything to engage their attention the person has no choice but to retreat into their own thoughts. Sometimes these thoughts bring fear or apprehension as they take the person to places or situations that they do not understand and hence the confusion and aggression may increase.
The dedicated ward for dementia at Simblija Home, “The Butterfly Unit” is designed to decrease this confusion. “We need to be creative as the mind of a person with dementia just works differently – “For instance we installed memory boxes outside the front doors of the rooms and also made the doors of their rooms look like their house doors in their favorite colour. People with dementia will be more likely to identify with a family photo or a picture of themselves (sometimes of when they were younger), then a room number or name that they are likely to forget or lose the ability to read. All these things personalize their care, make it individualized and dignified. Together with different colour schemes these act as “way finding” making their lives easier and lessoning the confusion” Charmaine Attard, General Manager of Simblija Home within AX group commented.
“We also need to spark an interaction with the person using different channels and different tools” Simblija Care Home is a leader in championing activities. Charlotte Stafrace from ACTive Ageing provides drama-based projects that truly inject new life into our residents. They play charades, wave with scarfs, reminisce – Charlotte does anything that can entice their imagination. Once a month a group of volunteers from K9 search and rescue Malta come with their rescue dogs to interact and play with our residents. Jess Rymer comes on a weekly basis and sings old songs. “It’s amazing to see how a person that would otherwise sit quietly in their chair starts humming the old tunes and even sings along their favorite one or how a person who normally says nothing comes alive when they interact with the dogs” Charmaine continues.
“It is at these moments that show me that we have the right formula. People with dementia are struggling to keep memories together and I deeply believe that we are here to help them try and piece these memories together and give them new happy memories with this kind of interaction, environment and care. By doing this we are there to assist them and their families on this journey as partners in care, making the journey less lonely and fearsome,” said Charmaine.