Specialist Dementia Care closer to home

By PSS | Posted: Monday August 10, 2020

PSS Enliven Peacehaven Village has opened ten previously-decommissioned beds in its refurbished secure dementia wing, Iona - effectively doubling its highest-level dementia care capacity and giving more Southlander’s living with the progressive condition opportunity to reside and access specialist care closer to home.

Enliven Manager Operations and Projects Elaine Marshall says some families had been forced to travel long distances outside of the region to visit their loved ones, which added a new layer of stress and expense they could do without.

“While the extra beds at the D6 ‘psychogeriatric’ level in Iona may have opened in January without fanfare – they have already helped families of residents living with the most advanced stages of dementia, who require this level of specialist care,” says Elaine.

Adjoined to Iona’s lower-level D3 Residential dementia ward (20-beds) by interlocked doors, the (now) 20-bed strong D6 Psychogeriatric ward is the only secure unit of its type and level in Southland.

‘Dementia’ is an umbrella term used to describe a group of conditions that change and damage the brain. This leads to significant memory loss and affects a person’s ability to think, understand, make judgements, communicate and interact socially.

“It’s a sad diagnosis because we know that it is progressive” says Elaine.

People with dementia will gradually lose their independence, but with understanding and patience, and the appropriate expert care in place, Elaine believes quality of life can be preserved and they can continue to lead fulfilling lives.

‘It’s very important that we see the person for who they are – not the condition or the behaviours.”

Elaine maintains caring for people with dementia is less of a job and more of a vocation. It takes “very special people” to stay positive; to win over their trust and make them feel safe and comfortable in their ‘home’; and to help them engage with all facets of ‘normal’ life to their fullest ability.

One such “very special” person is Iona Clinical Coordinator, Julie Worner.

An experienced registered nurse with specialised training in dementia care and a passionate advocate of “those who have no voice,” Julie has been in charge of Iona’s dedicated team for five years.

“It can be confronting for families coming to terms with their loved ones needing specialised dementia care," says Julie, “But with their input, the right environment and our expertise, we are able to offer person-centred care that is adaptive to their changing needs and reflects who they are and what holds meaning and purpose for them .”

Julie says Iona residents from both D3 and D6 settings benefit from a long list of evolving evidence-based therapies, technology and hard-earned learnings.

From the purpose-built, outdoor courtyard filled with edible plants; to curated activities designed to evoke a sense of purpose or reassuring memories; from the ‘sensory room’ that allows residents freedom to safely explore and spark all five senses; to music therapy that inspires non-verbal residents to sing wartime songs in full-voice; from an artificial intelligence ‘App’ that identifies pain in non-speak residents; to a robotic baby seal that summons long-lost smiles and outward signs of connection and affection.

Every positive response, says Julie, makes their job worthwhile.

“We have the privilege of caring for people who have gone to war, raised children, worked in jobs, run local bodies, volunteered for charity, toiled the land …”

The hardest part is, in their minds, they often still do.