Active ageing in practice
If you’re looking for healthy ageing and active programs for yourself or to support a loved one who is frail aged, has dementia or is affected by both, then the community care services that Alzheimer’s Queensland offers could be for you.
Our services are so much more than just respite for the carer; in fact, our programs all promote active ageing, which is all about ageing healthily.
If you’re a client of ours, your health and happiness are what’s most important to us. We like to seek out activities that can capitalise on familiar pursuits that you still enjoy and understand well enough to carry out. If this speaks to you, either as a potential client, or as a friend or relative of one, then you might like to know more about our philosophy.
We aim to maintain, improve or slow down the progressive decline of aging-related conditions and dementia. We do this by enabling and facilitating our clients to engage in meaningful everyday activities and hobbies. Our thinking is that all people including those with dementia should be awarded the dignity of taking risks and live their lives to the best of their abilities – and we’ll support you or your loved ones to do this in a safe and encouraging environment.
How do our occupational therapists help those with dementia?
It’s commonplace to underestimate a person with dementia and think their abilities are really limited. We may not look at their strengths and skills and instead get people doing things that are just too easy, childish or demeaning. At Alzheimer’s Queensland, we like to turn this thinking on its head, and promote self-esteem, a sense of worth and achievement.
“We’re really concerned about looking at the whole person who has dementia and how that disease is impacting them,” says Cindy Wilesmith, Occupational Therapist for Alzheimer’s Queensland. “We focus on psychological concerns, how they’re feeling about themselves and the physical environment, and how that’s affecting them.”
“We identify what’s important to people, what activities they’d like to do and work out how they can do these safely. We then liaise with respite assistants who use our plans and guidance when they’re out with our clients in the community,” explains Cindy.
“The whole profession is based on the idea that activity is at the core of us as people,” she continues. “It’s as necessary as eating, drinking and breathing. That’s why it’s so important to us that we help people still find meaning and purpose in their day-to-day lives.”
“Because of how dementia develops, we want people to participate in activities but we need to support them – so we might adapt a task so that even if they can’t do the whole thing, they can still do part of it,” she adds.
Our clients’ experiences – Barbara and Allan Sparks
Barbara Sparks, 78, and her husband, Allan, 84, have been married for 57 years. Allan, a former cartographer, attends our services in Toowoomba.
“Allan’s Alzheimer’s is progressing gradually - he was diagnosed five or six years ago,” explains Barbara. “He goes to Buckland Street (Alzheimer’s Queensland’s Toowoomba Multi Service Centre) on Mondays and Thursdays for the day, and once a month I try to get an overnight stay to give me a bit of a break. Buckland Street are marvellous – I don’t know what I would’ve done without them.
For a start, it’s not at all institutionalized; it’s a large Queenslander house – the way they’ve done it up is just like walking into a home and Allan treats it like one now, he feels comfortable there. The staff are wonderful; you can talk to them about anything. They take Allan out every day he’s there and it’s always doing things that he enjoys. They have a lot of picnics, play croquet, and if there’s a show on, they’ll take him to that.
I do feel that keeping him so active has helped slow down the progression of his dementia. Allan’s whole social life is Buckland Street and he interacts with the staff a lot. They’re all young or middle aged, lively and happy – I think that’s really good for him.
The occupational therapists are always very helpful too. I can always ring them up about any problems I might have as they have certain strategies they can advise me about.”
Our clients’ experiences – Cindy Wilesmith’s examples
“Every day at the centre is different- depending on who’s attending and what interests we’ve identified for them,” says Cindy.
“For example, we might have a group of people who are interested in fishing – and so we’ll go out fishing. One person in the group may need no help at all, and another might need step-by-step instructions on things like how to bait the hook. Maybe another will just want to watch and enjoy the companionship,” explains Cindy.
Sometimes there are different levels of engagement but at the heart of it, each of the clients in our groups has a shared interest – which is what we try to keep them engaged in. We also support our clients one-on-one with activities they’re interested in.
“We have a client with younger onset dementia and her diagnosis has meant she’s had to give up quite a high status job. She’s articulated that she misses having something to do and giving back to people. We’ve been able to engage her in volunteer work and give her back that sense that she’s doing something useful for other people and her community.
Another client is a younger gentleman. His wife is still working and needs to do so. Before his diagnosis, he was the cook of the household and would have dinner ready on the table when she came home from work. Now it’s difficult for him to drive to the shops and plan what’s needed. He can still cook but he needs help with some of those tasks so we’re able to go over there in the afternoon, work out what he wants to cook, take him down to the shops and come back to the house.
At the end of the day, his wife comes home and there’s a shepherd’s pie on the table for her – she doesn’t have to worry about that and he feels like he’s done something for his wife and that he’s contributing.”
We’re passionate about helping people with dementia live their lives to the fullest – so having people engaged in activities that mean something to them, also means something to us. Our philosophy is what sets us apart from other service providers so if you’d like to know more about our active ageing programs, please get in touch.
If you’d like further information about our services, please call our 24-hour Advice Line on 1800 639 331 or learn more about activities for people with dementia through our website.
Words: Ash Anand