Designing by Engagement - 'a big shift'

A compelling new education program seeks to understand the person with dementia by placing them at the heart of care.

The starting point for the workshop is to better know and understand a person living with dementia and ensure that support for the person maintains and enhances their dignity.Designing for Engagement is a one-day workshop being offered to aged care staff and carers across Australia. The workshop explores a range of initiatives in supporting engagement – with a particular emphasis on music and food.

According to the Director of the HammondCare Dementia Centre, Associate Professor Colm Cunningham, “Thinking and practice has shifted significantly from providing only group activities. More and more the focus is on activities and interventions that support engagement with the individual person, their needs and interests.

“In our workshop our presenters, including HammondCare’s Executive Chef, Peter Morgan Jones, and Director of Music Engagement, Dr Kirsty Beilharz, will challenge our engagement practice, demonstrating how music and food can re-engage people with dementia in communication and conversation.

“The workshop will draw from practice and will include inputs on environmental design and the arts, which demonstrate practically the very significant ways in which people who are distressed or agitated can be supported,” said A/Prof Cunningham.

“We have experienced many powerful instances where supporting people to engage with the usual activities and rhythms of the day made a big difference in people’s lives.

“Charlie* was withdrawn and rarely spoke when he moved into care. With the introduction of cooking into his facility and the buzz and activity that surrounded this, Charlie began to watch and eventually get involved by getting simply walking up and joining in some of the baking. To everyone’s surprise Charlie began to talk more and share things about his life. It was very clear that his being able to contribute and share his talents made a big difference in staff getting to know Charlie and what was important to him. 

“There are many, many stories like this that our workshop will be detailing, to demonstrate the ways in which people who are distressed or agitated are finding calm and comfort through the gifts of music and food,” said A/Prof Cunningham.

The Dementia Centre’s first Designing for Engagement workshops will be held in Sydney on May 15 and Melbourne on June 11. More details and registrations:

* Name changed to protect privacy.