Butterfly program engaging residents with cognitive impairment

LEA says families are ‘just blown away’ by results

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 — Deron Hamel

Forest Hill life enrichment aide (LEA) Shannon Lynch has brought a unique idea to the Kanata long-term care home that’s proving effective at engaging residents with cognitive impairment.

Lynch got the idea to bring larvae to a special area outside the home and engage residents in the process watching the cocoons hatch into butterflies from a newspaper article assistant director of care Nicole Fulford had shown her.

Plus, it has proved to be an excellent opportunity to bring residents outdoors to enjoy the summer weather while watching the chrysalis process inside a large mesh tent where the butterfly houses are stored.

Lynch says the residents have enjoyed many aspects of the program since it began in early June, from painting the butterfly houses to watching the vibrant colours of the butterflies’ wings to simply sitting outside in the warm weather.

Residents can sit inside the large tent and watch the butterflies come in and out of their house and fly around. Sometimes residents and life enrichment staff sit in the tent reading or talking and simply enjoying the ambiance.

The LEA says family members are overwhelmed with the program’s success. What has made it successful, she adds, is the fact that the program allows for residents to reminisce and socialize in an atmosphere that provides a lot of sensory stimulation.

“The family members are just blown away by this,” she says. “When you show them the photographs of their loved ones smiling and laughing, they love it.”

The program has also served as an opportunity to make new connections. Rita Gurova, a staff member who works in the kitchen, speaks Russian as her first language. One of the residents involved with the program also speaks Russian, so Gurova takes time to visit with this resident when the program is running.

Nineteen butterflies were hatched this year, and life enrichment co-ordinator Craig Forrest says he hopes to increase that number to 50 next year and open the program to more residents.

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