Make the most out of life

Celebrating the moment" is how residents with dementia at Uniting AgeWell's Strath-Haven Community are being encouraged to live.

And with around a third of the 96 residents at the Bendigo facility living with varying levels of dementia, ensuring they get the most out of the here and now is vital for their wellbeing, says residential services manager Kate Jackson.

Kate says they've been keeping residents' spirits up during iso by facilitating zoom chats and teleconferences with their families. Another innovation is the love window at the café, where residents can chat to loved ones on the other side of the glass using a UE Boom speaker.

They are also hosting daily fun activities- high teas, fitness classes, arts and crafts, games, music, movies and more.

Leisure and Lifestyle Coordinator Kerryn Anderson says residents in the memory support wing who may not be able to participate in all the activities, are being treated to pampering hand massages, as well as ice-cream or cappuccino or hot chocolate from the new "Froth n Bubble" mobile café carts that bring fun to them.

And Kate says a new method to establish pain levels in people who can't tell you how they are feeling, and then appropriately treat them, has been piloted at Strath-Haven with huge success.

The Pain Assessment Checklist for Seniors with a Limited Ability to Communicate (PACSLAC-II) system entails in-depth observational checks of the person to observe facial, behavioural and body language to look for clues to see if they are in pain. The person's pain is then scored and therapies like heat packs, physio and medication applied accordingly. The goal is to reduce pain and provide comfort and increased quality of life.

The not-for-profit aged care provider operates Seven Hills Respite House based in White Hills which accommodates up to four people with dementia/ memory loss for short stays to offer their families respite.

Cheryle Hague, team leader for Uniting AgeWell's Commonwealth Home Support Programme in the Loddon Mallee region, says the respite is available by referral to people living with their families in the community.

Cheryle also runs the "You're Not Alone" support group for carers in the region, which normally meets every month at the White Hills facility - and is finding ways of being held virtually during COVID-19 restrictions.

She says sometimes the 10 or so members listen to educational chats, other times they just talk, laugh or cry and share a special bond that only carers of people living with dementia understand.

For details about respite care and the support group, phone 5454 2100 and for information about residential care phone 5434 3000.