News at DCU
Daughters of Charity Disability Support Services, winners of the DCU Dementia Elevator Innovation Award 2015

Tackling dementia through digital life stories

People with an intellectual disability and dementia in Dublin are benefitting from a new digital  life story project which will help them communicate better as they cope with increasing forgetfulness.  A Daughters of Charity Disability Support Services project was awarded the DCU Elevator Award for Innovation in Dementia, established by the Dementia Elevator programme at DCU to highlight initiatives from around the country that contribute in a meaningful and significant way to the everyday lives of people affected by dementia.

The life story project has helped 21 people with intellectual disability, at varying points on the dementia diagnosis spectrum, to create their own virtual life stories using personal photos, favourite songs and video clips.  Users and staff received training in the use of a pre-identified suite of easy-to-use life-story and music apps which allows for a more creative, person-centred approach to dementia care.  An award of €1000 will now help the Daughters of Charity Disability Support Services to further develop their project.  

Pamela Dunne, Clinical Nurse Specialist with the Daughters of Charity said,

“The value of life-story work in supporting meaningful communication for persons who are deeply forgetful as a consequence of dementia is well-recognised.  This new approach will have a wide reach to all persons with dementia, opening up innovative person-centred opportunities for meaningful communication across the continuum of dementia.”  

A large number of applications were received from projects throughout the island of Ireland and included diverse projects such an Alzheimers Society Garden Project; a memory education programme; cognition monitoring for people with intellectual disability; a creative expression programme; a music and memory artist in residence scheme with nursing units and day centres in Galway; an arts engagement project for those with dementia and their families; a physical activity programme designed to combat early onset of dementia; hospital-based memory rehabilitation and communication intervention programmes; and art classes for nursing home residents with dementia.  

Dr Kate Irving, joint lead of the Dementia Elevator project at DCU said,

“Dementia is both a global and a local problem.  It is great to see the innovation taken place within communities the length and breadth of this island to address the challenges of one of the world’s growing disease.  The Dementia Elevator Innovation Awards really underline DCU’s commitment to engaging with the broader community on societal challenges.”

Prizes were also awarded to three runner-up initiatives:

  • Will Grandad Remember Me? is a schools dementia education project developed by the Dementia Services Information and Development Centre (DSIDC) to increase awareness among secondary school students about ageing well and the risk factors for dementia such as smoking, alcohol and obesity.

  • The Golden Age Tango Therapy project in Wexford provides a space for enjoyment, creativity and fun for people with various levels of memory difficulties which can cause anxiety and stress.  Tango dance helps promote relaxation and develop awareness of oneself and of others.  Through weekly dance classes, people with dementia and their carers can meet and receive support from their peers in a comfortable and stimulating environment.

  • The Shankill Social Sofa is a collaborative project between Hemsworth Court supported accommodation Spectrum arts and culture centre and artist Maria Duddy.  Although the project has taken place.  The Social Sofa is a 1750 kg concrete sofa which tenants have covered in coloured mosaic tiles bringing their own bespoke design to vibrant and eye-catching life.  Over 10 months, with tenants leading the process, they engaged a number of local community groups, including schoolchildren, to create a design which combined iconic local places, personal reminiscences and individual artwork to express their very personal feelings of how they live with dementia.

A special Dementia Champions Award was presented to the Dublin-based Dargle Group:  Conversation Coaching for People with Dementia, developed by two speech language therapists to help counteract the communication difficulties experienced by people with dementia which can cause loss of confidence, social withdrawal, isolation and depression.