© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
While borders are reopening, some restrictions in Australian residential aged care facilities remain to help prevent any introduction of the coronavirus.
While group excursions remain off the cards, the good news is that residents can now:
- Gather in communal rooms or outside, though physical distancing remains and State limits on group numbers apply.
- Leave their residence to attend small family gatherings.
- Receive up to two close family members, including children, at any one time. The proviso being that the visitors, including the children, be vaccinated for the flu and respect the usual COVID practices. Those practices include: keeping 1.5m in distance; having a temperature check on arrival; washing their hands; and staying away if unwell.
- Enjoy lengthy visits. There is no limit to their duration.
In the wash up of the past year, it has been fascinating to observe how some residential aged care facilities have adapted to the new environment and found new ways of supporting the mental and physical wellbeing of their residents.
One shining example is the "Window Therapy" initiative trialled and embraced at Whiddon Residential Care at Largs in the NSW Hunter region.
It was the brainwave of their regular creative engagement specialist, Maurie Voisey-Barlin, who tried to seek alternative ways of keeping connected to and raising the spirits of his appreciative audience of elders during lockdown.
On waving good-bye to his children as they set off to school from his front window, he thought of adapting his interactive therapeutic performances to a setting where he was distanced from his elders by a windowpane.
The Whiddon Largs site director encouraged Maurie to give it a burl, and now from the success of that experiment in that small Hunter township, a new global movement has possibly emerged - that of "Window Therapy".
Window Therapy is the domain of performers who have a passion for bringing love and joy to the elderly and have a good dose of emotional intelligence.
In the numerous media interviews that have followed, Maurie describes his interactive performances as:
"Part vaudeville, part improv, part interview, and fully immersive."
Pre-COVID he had been delivering his performance artistry one-on-one to residents at five residential aged care homes as part of a broader therapeutic program.
During COVID, he managed to continue his work - provoking responses from his elders and acknowledging their world of emotions - at a safe distance, separated by windows.
In an interview with the Newcastle Herald, Maurie explains:
"I use 'chalk style' whiteboard markers to draw faces and messages, I play out physical comedy routines, we do charades, guessing games and I'll converse using pen and paper. I'll even jump on the phone and talk to them through the glass.
"The reactions are joyous, playful and cheeky but it's more than just performing through a window, it's about spontaneity and provoking responses that validate the individual."
The success of the program has raised the profile of a group of Australian performance artists, or rather "engagement specialists", called The Outside In Collective.
These artists creatively engage elders using a mixture of art, music, dance, drama, jokes, yarns, imaginary play, cheek, slapstick and connection.
While humour therapy has been used in hospital settings for decades, this type of therapy in aged care facilities only received recognition in 2011. It came after UNSW research, funded by Australia's Humour Foundation, found that humour worked just as well as antipsychotic drugs when it came to treating agitation in people living with dementia.
At this time of year, this leads me to suggest that if you're looking for that "out of the ordinary" Christmas gift for your loved one living in aged care or receiving in home care, why not contact "The Outside In Collective". Bring an engagement specialist in to inject some fun! It is also helping the Arts sector which has been decimated with loss of ability to earn an income for many. Let’s support our artists!
Maurie is also an awesome guy who takes time out of his day to chat to people about the terrific work he’s doing.
If you need help finding residential aged care facilities or in-home care providers who go that extra mile in caring for residents or clients, please feel free to contact me Danielle Robertson for guidance.