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Supporting clients with dementia at Bethanie’s social centres

Dementia is about joining the party, writes social centre co-ordinator Karen Fewster.

The thing to understand about dementia is that it demands that everything we do is person-centred. Our days don’t work if what we have planned isn’t engaging. We go on outings to places like Serpentine and Kings Park, especially now the weather is improving. We’ve had Bunnings come out to help set up a vegie patch at Kwinana, which has proved very popular with our clients.

We have lots of fun doing karaoke and brain-testing quizzes. We have a ball with questions written on it which we throw it to each other, just to get their memory twigging. We also play guess what’s in the box, using textures covered with a scarf.

We made up a storytelling game, where we’re all dealt cards with a picture on them, such as a garden or a book. Everyone takes a turn putting a card in the middle, and they add to the story using what’s pictured on the card.

A lot of our clients with dementia love doing word searches, so we put crosswords up on the white board, asking questions like who won World War Two or who invented the telephone.

We work with families, our community team and other specialists such as Dementia Australia to ensure we can meet our clients’ needs and support families with practical solutions and understanding the client’s journey.

I tell families that with dementia, it’s all about joining the party. What does it matter if a person doesn’t say things correctly, or remember the event properly? It’s about celebrating the conversation. I think families can be scared they’re going to lose their loved one, but correcting their memories only stops them talking. If we all join the party, the conversation keeps rolling, and the neural pathways stay active.

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