Image credit: James Mulkeen
Working with groups is central to our work on The Storybox Project, but when supporting people living with dementia engaging people working one to one is also really important. This can be particularly true in carehomes where some residents may be too unwell to leave their room, especially those who are reaching the end of life. As part of our AT HOME programme we provide ideas for activities that work well for individuals every week, but to support this here are other suggestions to help make this crucial interaction a success:
Keep it simple: Sometimes the simplest things will work brilliantly. This could be a standalone activity that you have created or a streamlined version of something that you are already doing with a group such as a craft activity or a song. One activity done well can be just as beneficial as something more complicated.
Make it sensory: Take an approach that allows people to access an activity or experience with as many senses as possible. For example somebody could look at a bunch of flowers and talk about them, but they could also smell the scent or touch the leaves and petals. They could even listen to bees buzzing around them if you are outdoors. The more ways in the more inclusive an activity will be.
Let the conversation flow: The conversation that an activity stimulates can be as rich as the activity itself. Sometimes if you are chatting a lot you may feel you have not “done” enough but if you are triggered response and engagement, or other interaction like a smile or eye contact, that has great value in itself.
Add wonder to the everyday: Can you use creative activity to enhance the experience of everyday activities? What would happen if you added a gentle piece of music to the interaction whilst somebody is having their hair brushed? Of how would the mood be changed if you sung a song together whilst somebody is getting dressed? Adding a gentle creative aspect can be an easy way to reinvigorate the day-to-day mechanisms of care, and to make them more special.
Being together: The simplest creative activity is a celebration of the power of being together with somebody in the moment. That in itself is an outcome of huge value. Take the time to slow down and focus on an activity will provide great benefits for both of you. The chance to concentrate together is a wonderful thing, even if that concentration is short-lived.
Look for response: Everybody that you work with will respond in their own way, and many people will not respond verbally. Acknowledge the diversity of response and try to identify and embrace the uniqueness of each individual’s reaction and engagement.
Have fun: One of the most valuable outcomes of working creatively one to one is the chance to have fun together. A bit of laughter lives the soul and genuinely improves the quailty of life for both of you through the experience of a quality shared experience that you have spontaneously created together.