Focusing on strengths and interests enhances quality of life for residents with dementia: LEC

Students from St. Michael Elementary School are seen here singing for Streamway Villa residents in December 2016. Intergenerational activities have long been favourite programs for the Cobourg long-term care home’s residents.

Streamway Villa residents benefiting from sensory activities, fitness program, music therapy and intergenerational get-togethers

Focusing on activities that play to people’s strengths and interests – especially those that encourage reminiscing – are proving to be effective at enhancing quality of life for long-term care residents living with dementia, says Streamway Villa life enrichment co-ordinator (LEC) Christina Doughty.

There is no one-size-fits-all method of effective programming when it comes to working with residents living with cognitive impairment, but Christina says the Cobourg long-term care home has found that programming that allows residents to maximize their strengths works well.

For instance, sensory programming that encourages reminiscing has shown to be effective at enhancing quality of life for people, she says.

“We do a lot of sensory boxes or sensory mornings,” she tells The OMNIway. “We have an antique box that really takes the residents back. It has a lot of farming gear in it as well as household items … which helps them to reminisce.”

Since launching the Music and Memory program at Streamway Villa in 2015, there has been a decline in the administration of antipsychotic and antidepressant medications, reduced sundowning, increased socialization among residents with the families and friends, and less resistance to care, Christina says.

The Music and Memory program trains people how to use personalized playlists loaded into iPods and related digital audio systems that help those living with cognitive impairment to reconnect with their environment through music-triggered memories.

Streamway Villa’s “fun and fitness” program has also shown to be effective. In this program, Christina says the life enrichment team tries to keep all residents together while individualizing activities that allow residents to demonstrate their abilities.

Intergenerational programming, activities that bring residents together with children, have also proven to garner favourable responses from residents of all cognitive abilities, Christina says.

“If we bring in a school to do a singalong, for example, I find that’s very beneficial,” she says. “There has never been a negative response from bringing kids into the home.”

January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. In a recent interview with The OMNIway, Alzheimer Society of Canada education director Mary Schulz said long-term care homes have key roles to play in eliminating the stigma surrounding dementia.

Intergenerational programming and encouraging social activities between residents are among her recommendations.

“I think it’s all about bringing down those borders and boundaries that tend to separate us, and think about how to integrate people more, because we are all social people, whether we have dementia or not, we all need people, and that doesn’t stop if you live in a long-term care home,” she says.

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