Standing by the people with dementia

Standing by the people with dementia

By Notis Paraskevopoulos, MSc in Dementia

We live in a time when people show symptoms of ageing in increasingly younger ages. This is combined with the growing number of degenerative brain diseases related to ageing, so we chose to design a program that can improve the social and mental condition of the elderly and of people living with dementia.

“Thāllo” is a non-pharmacological, psychosocial intervention addressed to the elderly and to people living with dementia. It was developed by Notis Paraskevopoulos and Konstantina Maltezou after years of contact with elderly and people living with dementia, and it is a study of their daily needs and desires. It combines communication with recreational activities adjusted to the dynamics and the needs of each group of participants, aiming at their active, rather than passive, participation. The purpose is not just to entertain, but also to encourage the creation of relations of trust and openness.

Isolated Listening Method

With the Isolated Listening Method, which runs along with the main core of the method and is closely tied to it, the beneficiaries listen to selected musical pieces related to their social background. Indicative results of this approach – especially in people living with dementia – include the observation of hand movement patterns, the use of correct syntax and the reappearance of speech in patients that had stopped speaking.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality technology is already used in other countries as a tool that helps communication with people with severe cognitive and motor impairment, and it seems to alleviate certain dementia symptoms, such as stress, confusion and mood swings. In October 2018, “Thāllo” introduced virtual reality technology to nursing homes in a way that didn’t discourage the participants, but as a supplement to the recreation offered by “Thāllo”. The results were encouraging, while in some cases people spoke after having remained silent for a long time or smiled and looked satisfied. These reactions led to the implementation of new activities, especially designed for the specific group of participants.

The application of this method as a whole boasts significant results in the daily life of the elderly and people living with dementia, such as reduction of neuropsychiatric symptoms, significant increased socialization and improvement of the caregivers’ relationship with their relatives.

Today, ten years after our first visit and underpinned by a network of collaborators and trained volunteers, we provide free information, support and recreational services to the elderly and to people living with dementia in Greece, and our activities stretch along the following axes:

 

  • Weekly recreational meetings via teleconference with 25 non-profit nursing homes in continental and insular Greece;
  • Developing of mobile applications to support caregivers in their work;
  • Designing and producing games and accessories for people with dementia.
  • Re-issuance of the book “365 days next to the Third Age”.
  • 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 from Johns Hopkins University, USA, professionals.
  • Digital programmes in collaboration with the Museum of Cycladic Art and the Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation, addressed to people over 60 years old and to people living with dementia.
  • 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 through valid information.

Our work boasts honorary distinctions, such as our nomination for the ‘Art Explora – Académie des beaux-arts European Award’ for our program «A game for adults» at the Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation and a ‘Cultural Creativity Award’ from Youth makers Hub, in the framework of the Young Leaders Awards 2020. The ‘Outstanding Offer’ Award in December 2021 from the Hellenic Initiative Against Alzheimer’s Disease in the context of the ‘Journey to Hope Greece’ event, is the culmination of a years-long effort and strengthens our wish to keep working with the same passion on what we love.

[Original article in Greek, can be accessed here

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