Home Music therapy A simple yet powerful way to engage older people with dementia

A simple yet powerful way to engage older people with dementia

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Since the start of the COVID pandemic, lockdowns, social distancing and intermittent quarantine have made it difficult for families and communities to connect. And these isolation issues are compounded for people with dementia and their caregivers.

Due to increased medical issues, social interactions and outings may be reduced or canceled, leaving the caregiver and the person with dementia more “alone” time together.

Filling the endless hours with meaningful and rewarding activities can be a challenge for both family and professional caregivers. That’s why it’s no surprise that one of the questions frequently asked by caregivers of geriatric specialists and neurologists is: what can we do all day?

Now an organization is hoping to deliver an answer, an answer that arrives at your doorstep in a brightly colored box.

Targeted and personalized activities

In July 2022, Prairie Elder Care, a Kansas-based assisted living and dementia care organization, launched Connectivity, a monthly subscription service for caregivers of people with dementia.

“Often for guardians, the burden of planning overshadows their ability to really engage,” said Michala Gibson, RN, co-founder of Connectivities. “Connectivities delivers a simple, targeted and personal solution right at the gatekeepers’ front doors. »

Each box includes eight or more seasonal activities, puzzles, games, and more that have been tested by people with dementia in assisted living. Although they may seem simple, the materials in the box are carefully selected to engage people with different cognitive and physical abilities.

Although they may seem simple, the materials in the box are carefully selected to engage people with different cognitive and physical abilities.

“We spend a lot of time testing different shapes and sizes of the same product to determine what will work best for this particular activity,” said Mandy Shoemaker, former elementary school principal and co-founder of Connectivities.

To encourage multi-generational participation, Connectivities includes a step-by-step written guide with photographic illustrations, so many activities can be carried out or completed with the help of elementary-aged children and teens.

Additionally, the instructions include therapy goals and modifications to tailor the activity to the appropriate level of difficulty.

“In dementia care,” Shoemaker said, “we talk a lot about how the memory of an activity or interaction can quickly fade, but the feelings they create last.”

Each box also comes with a link to a website that offers instructional videos as well as additional music therapy and exercise activities and supportive links to a caregiver community.

Foster a sense of community, connection and control

As owners of the Prairie Elder Care and Prairie Farmstead group homes in Kansas, Gibson and Shoemaker’s experiences led them to develop a philosophy of care that permeates the contents of every box.

“The connectivities really came from our engagement model, which is based on community, connection and control,” Gibson said. “People with dementia need to have a sense of control to be able to connect with people and form a community. “

In her 20 years of caring for people with dementia, Gibson has discovered that a sense of control depends on caregivers’ ability to understand, anticipate and meet needs before frustration, confusion and frustration arise. anger.

“When you have a group of people who all feel in control, they can connect with the people around them and the environment, like animals and gardens,” says Gibson. “And the more connections we have, the more we have a sense of community or a sense of belonging.”

More than just a do-it-yourself kit or a busy job, Connectivity boxes aim to strengthen the bonds between caregivers, family members, friends and the person with dementia.

More than just a do-it-yourself kit or a busy job, Connectivity boxes aim to strengthen the bonds between caregivers, family members, friends and the person with dementia.

The 30-minute activities are designed to spark a sharing of memories and experiences as well as to foster connections with family, nature, the senses, history, our past, science, music, our body, food, creativity, etc.

Activities also help maintain important life skills and intellectual abilities. For example, pouring beads and confetti into a tube to make the Independence Day stick requires concentration and problem-solving skills. During testing, Gibson noticed one couple in particular, who became very focused and worked together to complete tasks.

“The activities give them that meaning and use the skills they have, rather than highlighting or testing the things they no longer have,” she said.

The activities give them that meaning and use the skills they have rather than highlighting or testing the things they no longer have.

Involve everyone in the family

A follower recently described how the activities enhanced the family visit with her 99-year-old great-grandmother.

“Nothing seemed to motivate her or ground her in the present moment,” the follower wrote. “We showed him the Connectivities box and started the beach activity with sand and shells. Everything changed during our visit [through the sharing of memories] the beaches of California (his home for 67 years before moving to Kansas) together.

Activities can also help some family members make a meaningful transition.

“Before dementia, maybe the person wouldn’t have enjoyed these activities,” Shoemaker said. “But things are a little different now, and sometimes family members have to let go of who and what they were and accept individuals as they are now.”

Although they own and expand their group homes, the two women see a lot of potential for the program.

“Our hope for Connectivities,” Gibson explained, “is that it helps people stay home longer, have a better quality of life, and answers this question: what do I do to engage people dementia?”

Cost of connections and subscription information

only one Connectivities box including shipping $69. The subscription price is $62.99 including shipping, and group boxes are available from $199.99 for six people up to $499.99 for 24 people.