Model train project to prevent isolation and loneliness for residents with dementia

Dementia Support Australia has worked closely with a Queensland aged care home to establish a room-sized model train layout around a miniature town to help a group of residents living with dementia.

Dementia Support Australia has worked closely with a Queensland aged care home to establish a room-sized model train layout around a miniature town to help a group of residents living with dementia.

The model train layout at Estia Nambour was initiated by DSA consultants last year as a pilot project after assessing the needs of six residents including a retired train driver during recent COVID-19 lockdowns.

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Now the model train layout has become a much-loved asset for all Estia Nambour residents and launched a new weekly men’s group.

Estia Nambour Lifestyle Coordinator Wendy May said the model train layout has miniature replica Nambour shops, a golf course and even a sugar cane farm and there is more to come.

The project has also led to connections with the Nambour community, including the Sunshine Coast Model Railway Men’s Shed, Nambour Library and the Nambour Genealogical Society.

“This model railway layout is such a valuable thing for our home,” Ms May said.

The initiative is attracting attention. DSA Team Leader Mary-Clare Maloney met with Ms May and Estia Nambour resident Allan Lanham for interviews for a news story with ABC TV Queensland broadcast on August 30.

Mr Lanham said the train was “wonderful” and brought back memories. “As kids, we’d get a half penny and go up and put it on the rails and the train would flatten it,” he said.

DSA, led by HammondCare, has consultants in 37 locations nationally to provide national rapid, comprehensive and intensive dementia-specific in-reach services to aged care homes to help residents living with dementia where behaviours impact their care.

DSA Head of Professional Services Marie Alford said the model train layout was a example of how DSA consultants work collaboratively with aged care homes and health professionals to develop tailored programs for residents living with dementia.

“This model train project is fun but it also has a important role of providing  meaningful engagement for residents and helps bring back memories,” Ms Alford said.

“We are pleased to see how the work of DSA consultants has added to the quality of life of all Estia Nambour residents, not just the identified group.”

The project was funded under the Dementia Engagement Modelling Program (DEMP) during the COVID impact of 2021, to support residents who were isolated, frustrated or fearful and at risk of behaviours and psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD) during. Elements of this program continue in the broader DSA program today.

In all DSA case management, there is an emphasis on tailored psychosocial care strategies as an alternative to pharmacological approaches.

Consultants focus on understanding the person first - and build interventions based on this. Behind most behaviour is an unmet need or modifiable factor – such as undiagnosed pain, environmental issues or carer approaches.

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