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Published on: June 15, 2016
by Melissa McAlees for CareHome:
In the early to mid-stages of dementia, lapses in memory and episodes of confusion may begin to affect the way in which a person communicates with their family and friends.
Feeling frustrated, helpless, and unsure of themselves, they may choose to withdraw rather than risk an upsetting situation. When this happens, finding things to talk about can become difficult.
Call to Mind is a unique game which helps care workers, family members and friends understand the thinking, likes and dislikes of someone with dementia, both as the game is played and in everyday interactions.
The inspiration behind the game came from sisters Angela Newton and Laura Templeton.
Ms Templeton said: “My sister was an occupational therapist, specialising in working with older people. She adored the work but became aware of restricted provision for people diagnosed with dementia.
“In response, she set about designing a board game that would stimulate different parts of the brain to encourage interaction and improve communication for those living with the condition.
“She contacted a number of doctors, occupational therapists and care home managers to get their professional opinion on the need for such a tool. They all agreed that it would be extremely useful when working with people who have dementia.”
Difficulties with language and communication occur in all forms of dementia but the particular problems experienced by a person vary according to the type of dementia they have.
According to Alzheimer’s Society, communication is vital – not only to maintain quality of life, but also to preserve a sense of identity.
Yet, communication can be frustrating for a person living with dementia, for their family and friends, and for care workers who may not always know the best way to respond. At times they may worry about saying the wrong thing, choosing instead to say nothing. This absence of conversation can have a negative impact on the well-being of the person in question.
Inspires conversation across generations
Call To Mind encourages those in early-to-mid stages of dementia to recall personal memories; sparking conversations with care workers, family members and friends across all generations.
The board game includes a spinner and colour-coded question cards to stimulate discussions across a variety of topics.
Often, questions focus on areas that an older person may not have discussed for a while, such as a holiday they particularly enjoyed or where they grew up.
Call To Mind specifically develops care workers’ knowledge of their residents, helping them gain a deeper understanding of residents’ past experiences, interests, likes and dislikes. In this way, the board game helps provide person-centred care, whereby residents’ interests and preferences can be recorded on feedback sheets and kept with a care plan.
Activities co-ordinator, Angela Dawson, enjoys using the game with the home’s residents as it creates an opportunity to have fun. She said: “Call To Mind helps us as activity co-ordinators to have a better understanding of the residents’ life skills and interests –what they are passionate about and what they dislike.
“The game is good fun and exercises many senses including: hand, eye, speech and memory. It can also be toned up or down according to the residents’ needs.”
The design of the board game is the result of many years of research between dementia experts and University College London (UCL). It can:
• Encourage individuals to use different skills, including: physical movement and cognitive functioning;
• Discover more about someone in minutes rather than hours of unstructured conversation or filling in forms;
• Make guests feel important because their opinions are sought;
• Promote sense of belonging through shared interests;
• Question reminiscence as well as the present;
• Reduce ‘awkwardness’ of what to talk about;
• Help families connect in a relaxed and stress free way;
• Offer opportunities to talk about what matters in someone’s life.
’Incredibly simple and adaptable’
Researchers believe taking part in activities can offer a break from everyday care routines. One lady, whose mother currently lives with dementia, believes Call To Mind is one of many activities that can help care workers, family members and residents ‘spend quality time together’.
“Call To Mind has been hugely successful in helping the carers get to know my mother, open conversation and build a relationship with her, something that she was reluctant to do otherwise.
“She now loves to regale them with stories of the pony she had as a child and her days at boarding school.”
Kathryn Smith, director of operations at Alzheimer’s Society, added: “Taking part in activities and board games such as Call to Mind, which people have told us has been effective for stimulating memories, can help a person with dementia feel less isolated, improve communication and help them express their feelings.
“At Alzheimer’s Society we believe that life doesn’t have to end when dementia begins and we know that keeping people with dementia occupied and stimulated can improve their well-being.”
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