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Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Toddler Care v Dementia Care

Having seen some wonderful intergeneration programs and wishing for this to happen in many care homes within the UK, and recently having located a wonderful video which really demonstrates this point perfectly

it got me to think about learning and development.  Would the same methods we use for a children benefit our older generation?

Now toddler education and development is very close to my heart, as I have 2year old twin boys, who came into my life later than expected.  My father is the “next generation” likely to enter into a nursing or residential home (only if we can change the standards of care), and he is a long way off from styles of the 1930’s - 1940’s that most care homes and agencies model themselves on.  My dad is in no way a liver and onions man, nor is he particularly enamoured with the music of the 40’s.  My dad is more Chinese Takeaway and Bohemian Rhapsody.  Why am I explaining this?  Well to be perfectly honest 1. I like to tell everyone I’m a super mum I have twins and 2. Care Homes need to change and we need to make the standard of living better within these homes.

Children really bring out the youth in people.  My elderly neighbour was a potter, she’s potter here she’d potter there.  Since my boys came along she’s like a different person.  She’s down on the floor playing with them.  She knows all their favourite characters – Bing, Twirlywoos and Mr Tumble (secretly I think she watches the programs even without the boys).  Her recall ability is impressive for anyone.  And yes I take a little pride in that, I believe the youthfulness of my twins has brought out the youthfulness of my neighbour.

Watching them all play makes me feel old.

So, with all this in mind I got to thinking about Activities for Elder Care and what would help those with Dementia and Alzheimer’s keep “active”.

I previously worked in Safeguarding Children, and a style of development called Reggio Emilia is very popular within the Social Services team.  Reggio Emilia has its origins in Italy, in the province of Reggio Emilia. Its beginnings came in the wake of Italy’s post WWII freedom from fascist rule. The father of the approach was a middle school teacher by the name of Loris Malaguzzi, who collaborated with families to create a new system of education for young children – one that was child-centred, recognizing and honouring the individuality of each child. The first Reggio Emilia schools were truly a community effort, being built literally from the ground up by the families who would be part of their communities. Thanks to Malaguzzi’s work, by 1963, the city government had begun to assume responsibility for the management of the people’s schools and the first municipal preschool was opened.

However, another style of development again from Italy called Montessori is widely known, we even have Montessori Nursery Schools.  Montessori is the philosophy and practice developed by Dr. Maria Montessori of Italy. Dr. Montessori attended medical school at a time when women doing so was virtually unheard of. Upon graduation, she began work with institutionalized and mentally disabled children. She developed a range of materials and methods to aid them in their development, cognitive and otherwise. When her students, who had significant challenges to learning, performed just as well as did the “normal” children in the education system of her time, Montessori began to question that system and set out to try her methods with “normal” children. She established the first Casa Dei Bambini (“Children’s House”) for young children living in tenement housing in the San Lorenzo district of Rome, Italy in 1906.

The point is both methods equally have good bases and roots, both are Person-centred and both celebrate each individual as just that, an individual.

Finding activities that people living with dementia are able to participate in and enjoy can be challenging.  So could we use these styles and create Activities for Dementia patients based on these principles?

The answer is quite simply – yes.  Connecting with the senses is a valuable way to communicate with people living with dementia.

Here are just a few examples of what I have worked with for my children (I’ve made them more adult orientated) but I think you’ll agree there is possibility here.

Sensory Boxes & Other Ideas to Stimulate the Senses
Balls box – A large plastic box or a small suitcase of balls in different textures; rubber, plastic, fabric, squishy, baby (with bell inside), goop balls, porcupine balls, massage balls, glow in the dark balls. Any type of exercise ball or tactile ball is suitable. The quantity of balls depends on the size of the box you have.
Cereal Box –A large container (46 x 23 cm or 18 x 9 inches) half-filled with uncooked oats or rice bubbles (Any cereal on sale). Offer spoons, cups and other utensils for exploration.
Kinetic Sand - This sand can be shaped and stretched without separating. Place sand on a large cooking tray and offer safety utensils for exploration. Consult with your management before purchasing.
Seeds - Gather or buy large seeds such as pine cones, waratahs, acorns, jacaranda, or whatever seeds you have on hand e.g. avocado seeds, coconut, peach pit. NOTE: Be mindful of safety risks; insert small seeds into zip-lock plastic bags to avoid choking. Seeds can provide a variety of different textures, shapes and sizes to explore.
Food – Place a few boiled eggs or peeled bananas on a plate along with plastic cutlery. Demonstrate cutting the food and encourage residents to cut and taste it.

The addition of multisensory spaces to your Care Home may inspire residents to explore, interact or have somewhere where they can ‘just be’. Here are a few ideas:

Office – Create a working office in a corner of your facility for people who insist they have to ‘go to work’. Use an office desk, computer, files, pens and highlighters, a hole punch, in-out trays etc.
Virtual Forest – There are many things you can do to bring nature inside your facility. Use the bark of trees; stringy bark (used in aboriginal paintings), birch, sycamore. You can use twigs, moss planted in pots, small tree branches and grasses, palm leaves, banana leaves, bird of paradise leaves, and ferns.
Rummage dresser - Set up a three or four drawer dresser in a corner of your facility and fill it with everyday items such as doilies, napkins, beanies, coloured socks, scarves, baby clothes, tea towels, and other items. Some people may enjoy to sort and organize them.
Outdoor garden shed – Raised garden beds, an old plastic wheelbarrow, potting mixture, garden tools, and buckets.
Old car – Buy an old car that is still in reasonable condition (perhaps it could be donated if you spread the word around) and place it in the backyard of your facility, under a carport or driveway. Residents may feel compelled to ‘wash’ it, ‘fix’ it, or just sit in it.

This is just a start! There are many more stimulating areas worth trying: familiar foods, texture-rich materials, reading, massage, painting, outings, and music.

Multi-sensory activities
·         Drawing and listening to classic music
·         Hand-massage and conversation
·         Relaxing in a comfortable chair while watching colourful landscapes on a TV screen
·         Having nails groomed in a garden setting

Colour Sorting
Sorting pegs or bottle tops into matching colours – with older people like with children you’d need to be careful especially if using something smaller like buttons, as people like to explore with their mouths through taste!

There are some many activities within the Montessori and Reggio Emilia style that really would work.  And this is something I would personally would like to explore more and see more off in Care Homes around the UK.

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