Active Reactions was set up in July 2015 by myself and my CEO Sheila Diete-Spiff. We are an outreach service that provides a service to all those living with dementia in Care Homes. Active Reactions brings stimulation fun and friendship and we engage with our service users through fun-based activities which stimulates a reaction.
Our aims are to create a sense of belonging and wellbeing; taking part in an activity maintains good relationships and can give someone living with dementia a feeling of being valued and of importance. People living with dementia do not lose their identity, so it is best to keep life as normal for them as possible. We also work a lot on memory as this can be a useful tool for getting a person to respond.
I have been into many care homes and met service users that are unresponsive and slouched in their chairs when we first arrive until the memory box is brought out. I watch their senses awaken in front of me and then I can have a conversation with them. Time and patience is a key factor when working with someone who has dementia as they can pick up on your frustration. It’s key to stay calm and focus on one thing at a time. A person without stimulation or lack of activity can result in having mood or behavioural changes which then follows on with anxiety and depression.
Music is also a great activity for those living with dementia as musical memory is often retained whilst other memories are lost. I have found that people living with dementia like upbeat music; it gets them moving in their chairs if they are not mobile. For those who are mobile it seems to awaken them to stand and dance. The risk of falls can be reduced by keeping somebody active. A person that does not take part in being active can be at high risk from falling.
One lady I worked with just sat in the chair all day, when the music was put on she wanted to get up and dance , after the 3rd time of getting up she turns and said to me, “I feel like new woman and my legs don’t seem to feel so stiff.” I have had many conversations with service users and a lot of them inform me they sit in chairs all day and are bored, this tells us that people living with dementia are more aware than we think and should be listened to and heard.
We believe that our activities and engagement have a positive impact on people living with dementia. The rewarding part of our session is at the end when the residents are smiling, laughing and asking when we are coming back. That tells us we have achieved what we set out to do. Smile, appreciate and deliver.