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Preserving Dignity in Care through Creativity

Loss of dignity and individuality are often associated with the ageing process, particularly in relation to individuals suffering from dementia. Below, case worker Fiona Finn, discusses her experience of assisting individuals living with dementia.

Loss of dignity is a phrase often used in relation to getting older – the reduction of independence, the need for services and support. With dementia and the loss of capacity, dignity is further compromised by the erosion of ability to make safe choices about how one’s time is spent.

As someone who visits a dementia–specialist care home on a weekly basis, the challenges to preserve residents’ dignity are all too clear. However, in small ways with a bit of flexibility and creativity, small but significant improvements can be made.

Working in a befriending service, with gardening as the focus, I have witnessed enhanced wellbeing, physical and mental, through group and one-one work. Indoors or outdoors, the opportunity to gather, to put hands in soil, to hold, smell and touch leaves and flowers, stimulates the senses, encourages people to do gentle exercise and interact socially, in a safe and nurturing environment. In making choices with regard to the activities, reminiscing about their gardens or chatting generally, they are able to be a bit more of an individual.

Although participants don’t necessarily remember what they have done in previous weeks, they report at the end of sessions that they have enjoyed themselves and are visibly brighter and more alert. Staff report elevated mood after the sessions and sometimes increased interest in other activities offered in the home.

It is satisfying to know that an hour’s intervention once a week can make this kind of difference.

Fiona Finn
Case Worker
GreenAge Project
(thinking differently about mental health and wellbeing)
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