A psychosocial intervention without language constraints, about dementia in the third age

A psychosocial intervention without language constraints, about dementia in the third age

An interview to Aria Sokratous

The “Thāllo” programme is an innovative, non-pharmacological psychosocial intervention addressed to elderly people and to people living with dementia; it has been developed by Notis Paraskevopoulos and Konstantina Maltezou, through their systematic contact with a group of elderly people residing at a specific nursing home in Attica. In 2018, with a founding grant by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the implementation of the programme was extended to 16 nursing homes, four of which are outside the Attica region. Today, “Thāllo” is implemented in 25 nursing homes across Greece, supported by a network of trained volunteers, while 16 health professionals have also been trained with the purpose of integrating “Thāllo” into the residents’ daily life.

Notis Paraskevopoulos, responsible for the development of the programme, explains the action and its benefits to the “National Herald”.

In 2013 you founded seveneleven, a company aiming at producing theatrical plays and carrying out theatre workshops. What triggered the change of course in 2018 and, more specifically, the effort to improve the social and mental condition of elderly people living with dementia?

It all started out from a random theatrical collaboration, which in turn led us to the world of nursing homes through a pilot recreational programme which had one more objective: to map the residents’ participation in other recreational programmes. This initial experience transformed into a need and, after a short period during which we elaborated on what we had experienced, we decided to continue exploring and thereby came to develop what today is called “Thāllo”.

What is the “Thāllo” programme and what is it about?

“Thāllo” is a non-pharmacological, psychosocial intervention addressed to the elderly and to people living with dementia. It is the result of many years of contact with elderly people and people living with dementia, study of their needs, their everyday lives and their wishes. It is a combination of communication and recreational activities that take place using the ‘Connotation Thought Principle’ – as we call it – and are adapted to the dynamics and needs of each person or group, aiming at their active participation, at respecting their individual identity and at encouraging independence and the right to choose.

Your action is supported by well-acclaimed and eminent scientists from the John Hopkins University in the USA. How did this collaboration start?

Our company has had an evolutionary course right from the start, and the trust shown by individuals and big organisations has strengthened and fuelled it with optimism and courage for an even more successful continuation. It is in this context that our collaboration with the ‘Hellenic Initiative Against Alzheimer’s Disease’ (HIAAD.gr) falls into, of which I am happy and honoured to be a member.

The ‘Hellenic Initiative Against Alzheimer’s Disease’ is set up by a group of Greek researchers who put their scientific knowledge and research skills to the fight against the Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders pandemic in Greece. It has been underpinned by prominent scientist from Greece and abroad, and it is coordinated by:

Constanine Lyketsos, Head of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Studies at Johns Hopkins University, USA, Elizabeth Plank Althouse Professor at Johns Hopkins University, Director of the Richman Family Precision Medicine Center of Excellence in Alzheimer’s disease, and Director of the Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center, Johns Hopkins University.

Panagiotis Vlamos, Professor of Informatics and President of the University Research Centre of the Ionian University, Greece.

Vasiliki Machairaki, Assistant Professor of Genetic Medicine, Medical School of Johns Hopkins University, U.S.A.

Ioannis Tarnanas, Neuroscientist, Senior Fellow for Equity in Brain Health at Global Brain Health Institute (Trinity College Dublin), Founder and Chief Science officer at Altoida.

Our collaboration began when Professor Constantine Lyketsos from Johns Hopkins, USA, who was interested in our work, contacted us; this was one of the most crucial moments in our course and it refreshed our love for what we are doing. From that first contact onwards, our collaboration has been continually evolving through the implementation of new ideas and initiatives which respond to the needs, and bring caregivers closer to the current choices of information, training and treatment of dementia.

It is worth noting some of our collaboration axes:

A training programme for caregivers of people with dementia and health care professionals in cooperation with the Metropolitan College, designed by the ‘Hellenic Initiative Against Alzheimer’s Disease’ with valuable guidance by Johns Hopkins University professionals, USA.

A telephone line for information and support on the Third Age and dementia, in collaboration with the ‘Hellenic Initiative Against Alzheimer’s Disease’, focused on the free provision of a set of tools and services to further enhance the quality of care. The phone number is (0030) 212 000 8711, and services are also provided via teleconference.

A research programme at the Dementia Daycare Centre of Ioannina, under the supervision οφ Constantine Lyketsos from Johns Hopkins University, USA, aiming at correlating the “Thāllo” method to the improvement of certain dementia symptoms.

An important moment of our collaboration was when we received the “Outstanding Offer Award” in December 2021 from the ‘Hellenic Initiative Against Alzheimer’s Disease’ in the context of the ‘Journey to Hope Greece’, the first of a series of events which started in Greece and aims at providing caregivers with the best possible information on dementia and the latest developments and discussing major topics of their interest. We are extremely honoured that our work is recognized by important people of the scientific community with internationally acknowledged research work and offering to people with dementia and their caregivers.

How was the “Thāllo” method developed?

“Thāllo” was developed through the systematic contact with a group of elderly people living in a specific nursing home in Attica. For a period of 18 months, we came into daily contact with the people, we took part in a number of their daily activities and evaluated their actual needs. This daily interaction created relationships of trust and ultimately shaped a new model of communication and activation of the people, the “Thāllo” method. In 2018, with the founding grant of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the programme spread to 16 structures, the 4 of which are outside the Attica region, while in March 2020, one week before the first Covid restriction measures, activities were transferred to an exclusively digital environment with the same efficacy.

psychological-intevetion-550-367px
psychological-intevetion-7-larger

Nowadays, “Thāllo” is implemented in 25 nursing homes across Greece with the application of the method showing great results, such as:

  • Significant reduction of neuropsychiatric symptoms related to dementia;
  • Increased participation in activities;
  • Improvement of mood swings;
  • Alleviation of the feeling of institutionalisation;
  • Avoidance or reduction of instances of depression;
  • Improvement of the relationships between staff and/or relatives and residents.

Did you face problems carrying out your activity during the pandemic and, if yes, what were the problems?

Since March 2020 and because of restrictions on the visiting policies at nursing homes for reasons of protecting the residents from the Covid-19 virus, the activities of “Thāllo” have been adjusted and implemented digitally with the help of technological means. So, we designed and carried out:

  • Weekly recreational sessions via teleconference with 25 non-profit nursing homes in Greece.
  • Digital programmes, in collaboration with the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation and the Chios Music Festival, addressed to people over 60 years old, elderly people in and out of nursing homes and people living with dementia. Our program “Game for Adults” was nominated for the ‘The Art Explora – Academie des be- aux-arts European Award’.

In the new reality that affected everybody’s daily routine and life, we tried to adjust, to remain creative and to keep implementing our vision. Sometimes the next step is hidden in a pause. This time the pause was not our choice, but it inspired our next steps.

What is the next step and your broader vision?

Right from the beginning, our wish has always been to communicate our belief that knowledge reduces stress and removes fear. In order to achieve our goals, we are working on five axes:

  • Changing the stereotypical image of the Third Age;
  • Enhancing the social, mental, and emotional life of the elderly and the people living with dementia;
  • Informing and raising awareness regarding dementia;
  • Gradually eliminating the stigma associated with dementia;
  • Supporting relatives/caregivers of people living with dementia.

Regarding our next steps, during this year we will present a mobile application supporting caregivers in their work, and a range of games and accessories for people with dementia will be available on the market. At the same time, we are planning a web radio station with a programme specifically designed for the elderly and for people with dementia both in Greece and abroad.

Our goal is to spread the “Thāllo” approach beyond the borders of our country so that it can support Greeks living abroad and any caregiver, since the method knows no language constraints.

Facebook
LinkedIn

Share:

Scroll to Top