We all hope to get old healthy and happy. Regrettably, this is not granted to everyone. When someone you care about has been diagnosed with dementia you don’t have to stand by powerless.
There’s so much talk about dementia nowadays that getting older almost appears synonymous to becoming demented. The fact that dementia seems to be far more common now isn’t only because we know a lot more about dementia, but also because people are reaching more advanced ages. Ageing is one of the biggest risks of dementia.
We have a tot of possibilities to be ageing healthy and happy. This website is full of information about what to do to increase your chances.
But despite all the precautionary measures, brains falter from time to time. With our growing number of years, the number of problems within the brain may increase as well. Until time comes when all these shortcomings cannot stay hidden anymore and the brain succumbs to dementia.
It is very sad to see someone go through a gradual process of cognitive decline. Although there’s a frantic search going on for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, one of the most common causes of dementia, no medicines have been found yet.
Fortunately, it is not necessary to just sink into the decline. It is possible to fight back, preferably with some help. More and more products appear on the market to keep people with dementia active and improve their quality of life. Some research even points to the possibility to delay cognitive decline with the right kind of activities.
Below are just some of all the interesting options to help people suffering dementia and their caregivers.
True Doors is a company based in the Netherlands. And, as the name implies, the company is all about doors. They don’t invent or make doors, but have become aware of the fact that doors matter and have a big impact on people’s life. Creative director Marieke van Diepen has been intrigued by the concept of feeling at home since her years at the art academy.
The idea of True Doors is simple. They fabricate made-to-measure stickers of doors for doors. Every time you open a door with your personalised sticker on it, it will generate a positive feeling, a feeling of home.
Especially when someone has to leave home and move to a nursing home, this feeling of home is lost. For a person with dementia this feeling lost can be quite literally since all the doors in the nursing home look the same and they don’t remember which was the one to their room.
What True Doors does, is to take a photo of the front door of a house from a person’s past, print it on a giant sticker and put that on the front door of their room in the nursing home. Such a custom door stimulates memory and helps with orientation.
“The simple idea is that we create an individual true door using an image of a door where someone has lived and felt at home”, says Marieke van Diepen. If the old house no longer exists the company has a wide collection of doors available to find the closest resembling door.
According to staff reports of nursing homes with custom doors, residents have less trouble finding their room, talk more about their past triggered by the image, and in general feel more happy. Independent research came up with similar results. True doors stimulate orientation, recognition, feeling at home, reminiscence, and social interaction. They also have a positive influence on privacy of residents and the atmosphere in the corridors.
Canadian-based Keeping Busy is a small company dedicated to providing products that can make a difference to people with dementia. “We don’t just sell products for people with dementia, we design, create and use them”, says Donna Ray who founded Keeping Busy to help find ways to enable people with dementia to live fuller and more meaningful lives.
The distinguishing feature of Keeping Busy is the fact that they have embraced the Montessori method for designing their products. Over a 100 years ago, Italian doctor Maria Montessori developed an educational method for children based on a conducive environment and appropriate materials.
It turned out that the same techniques work very well for people with dementia. One of the key concepts behind the Montessori approach is to enable the person to do things for them self. Another important concept is to treat the individual with respect and dignity.
Research has shown that Montessori based activities for people with dementia produce more positive effects as measured by increased lengths of active participation and enjoyment than regular activities. Montessori based dementia programming has also been shown to decrease behaviour such as agitation and social withdrawal and also lower the levels of fear, anger and anxiety experienced by persons with dementia.
By engaging people with dementia in meaningful activity, boredom is reduced and quality of life improves. “All of our products are designed around Montessori principles for dementia which include: using familiar materials, offering cueing and other assistive techniques to enable success, being ‘error-free’ with no right or wrong answer, no winners or losers”, says Donna Ray.
Being engaged in meaningful activity meets some of human beings’ most basic needs, such as socialising, a feeling of accomplishment, a sense of purpose and play, as well as the need for cognitive and physical stimulation. The goal of an activity is in the doing, not in the activity itself. It’s about the process not the end result. About playing the game not about keeping score.
As dementia progresses, individuals lose the ability to plan, initiate or carry out activities. They need help to find something meaningful or purposeful to be involved in. That’s where the products of Keeping Busy can lend a hand. Their website also offers a series of useful articles about dementia and the Montessori method in the Learning Center.
Music & Memory
When music started, where it comes from and what it was useful for isn’t clear. But what is clear, is that humans and music are inseparable. Listening to and making music has a profound influence on the human brain. Singing in a group for instance stimulates the release of a hormone involved in bonding.
Music is a powerful activator of memory. When we hear an old hit song on the radio, it immediately brings back memories of the time that song was high in the charts. What we did then, with whom we were, how we felt.
This property of music is being used to help bring back personal memories in people with brain damage. Especially in people with dementia positive results have been achieved already. Music is a stimulus for emotions and thus enhances memory.
Music & Memory is a non-profit organisation based in the United States. It was founded by Dan Cohen based on the simple idea that he would want to be able to listen to his favourite ‘60s music if he ended up in a nursing home someday. He discovered that none of the 16,000 long-term care facilities in the US used iPods for their residents.
Now, Music & Memory brings personalised music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology. They train nursing home staff and other elder care professionals, as well as family caregivers, how to create and provide personalised playlists using iPods and related digital audio systems.
Favourite music or songs associated with important personal events can trigger memory of lyrics and the experience connected to the music. Beloved music often calms chaotic brain activity and enables the listener to focus on the present moment and regain a connection to others.
Providing patients with mp3 players and customised playlists could improve their quality of life. No need for organising therapy in groups, patients can listen to their music at any moment everywhere they want. An effective and economical aid.
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