Dementia Ambassadors explore meaningful activities to enhance the lives of those living with dementia.

Balhousie Care Groups award winning dementia programme has been running now for almost 3 years, and as such our team of dementia ambassadors have not only grown in number, but grown in strength, knowledge and ability.  At our latest bi monthly dementia ambassador team meeting, led by Dementia Operations Manager Yvonne Manson, our teams explored meaningful activities to enhance the lives of those living with dementia.

The meeting started with an update on some of the exciting projects that are ongoing and upcoming within our homes.  Three ‘Greatest Showman’ themed videos which are entries for an internal competition were played at the meeting.  Balhousie Monkbarns, Alastrean and St Ronans video entries have made it to 3rd, 2nd and 1st place, with the final voting results being collated over the next few weeks as we share these videos’ on our social media channels and include the publics engagement response to determine who win’s 1st place.

First guest speaker at the meeting was Tanya Smith; activities coordinator and dementia ambassador at Balhousie Huntly care home.  Tanya gave an interesting insight into Huntly’s annual Residents Awards that she has been leading for some time now at the home.  She explained that the current awards categories focus on residents’ achievements, and that recently they have included a category for volunteers at the home.  The award categories are chosen by the residents and each year they include a new category for recognition.  Tanya spoke about how the awards programme has inspired residents and staff at the home, and how it has helped to highlight residents vast range of knowledge and skills.  Tanya told us that their awards trophies have become highly sought after by residents and how this can provide a goal to work towards throughout the year.

Next up to speak was David Allan from Nexus Educational Supplies TEC ltd, who talked about an array of activities available to care homes from their range of educational supplies, and gave ambassadors the chance to get hands on with some of the products.  The group reviewed each of the products and discussed the value these can bring to residents when utilised in the care setting, to enhance well-being and inclusion including benefits to residents’ co-ordination; motor skills and cognition.  The ambassador group agreed the next step was to invite David to visit each of our care homes individually, so that residents and families can try out some of the products on offer and decide what works best for them as individuals.

For overall health and well-being, it is key throughout life to be enabled to remain as physically active as possible, and this is no different as we get older.  Lynn Warren from BetterGen was welcomed to the meeting to educate and demonstrate ways in which carers can encourage regular physical activity in the care setting.  Lynn explained exactly what the Bettergen program involves and has to offer residents, and the benefits that have been noted from those engaging with the program.  BetterGen offers participation in their programme by one of two ways; attendance at their wellness centres which run daily, or engaging in a tailored, supported exercise programme delivered in the care home by BetterGen on a weekly basis.

Artist Alison Robertson was the final guest speaker, who engaged ambassadors’ creativity as she opened discussion on arts and crafts in care homes.  Alison is an experienced artist and has worked on a number of projects with Balhousie Care to date.  Alison was the designer of our first sponsored ‘Auld Wullie’, which having been brought back to us after his time on the first Oor Wullie Bucket Trail, went on to travel round each of our care homes to visit residents.  Alison then lead a 6-week pottery class with our Pitlochry residents, and more recently has been facilitating fortnightly art and craft sessions at our Stormont home in Blairgowrie. We have had lots of positive feedback from our residents who have participated in Alison’s art classes and also our care teams reporting significant improvement in individuals’ concentration levels, focus, dexterity and overall well-being.  Many of our ambassadors are very creative themselves, and Alison’s talk has inspired them with some new ideas to introduce arts and crafts in their weekly participation offerings.

We would like to thank all the speakers at this month’s meeting, along with all our dementia ambassadors who continue to care for and inspire our residents every day.