In Roy, Utah, a non-profit is training volunteers to work with people with dementia. Known as the Tailored Activity Program, or TAP, volunteers go to the homes of people with dementia to engage them in activities like games and puzzles. The benefit is twofold: it relieves caregivers and it has shown to reduce behaviors (like agitation and aggression) in those with dementia.
According to the article, TAP “reengages people in daily life so they can feel a part of their environment and derive meaning and purpose”. TAP is unique because it trains volunteers in the activities, rather than adding the responsibility to the caregiver. Similar programs have been adopted and implemented around the globe. By training volunteers, TAP hopes to assuage the nation’s growing need for professional caregivers.
Here at Dolan we engage in programs very similar to TAP. For instance, when a resident moves into one of our homes, the family and social worker collaborate to compile a playlist of the individual’s favorite music. This list is then transferred to the resident’s very own iPod, used in our Music & Memory program. Our Care Partners engage the residents in music-centered activity, all tailored to the individual’s preferences. When residents hear their favorite music, it can often trigger memories from their past, and it can bring them a sense of joy- a spark of light in their eyes.
Another notable program at Dolan Memory Care Homes is Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST). A Saint Louis University initiative, CST allows residents to gather twice a week and have opinion-based discussions, relevant to today’s news and the residents’ pasts. Participants are fond of CST because it gives them a non-threatening place to feel safe and engaged with others.
Outside of these formal programs, Dolan Memory Care Homes Care Partners, activities assistants and other staff implement other tailored activities for our residents. Using Life Stories, (comprehensive bio/psycho/social/spiritual assessments completed upon move-in) residents are engaged in activities specifically tailored to their interests-puzzles, board games, physical activities, etc. These tailored opportunities for engagement allow Dolan residents to maintain their hobbies, interests and preferences.
Notably, the article points out that although frequent and consistent TAP engagement did reduce behaviors, they found that the behaviors returned eight months after withdrawing from TAP. The takeaway? Personalized engagement will not cure someone of their dementia, but will undoubtedly enhance quality of life for participants, leading them to be less distressed, in less pain, and less dependent, ultimately leaving caregivers and care recipients happier and healthier.