The Power of Connection in Dementia Care

Do you worry like I do about how to truly connect with your loved one in the late stages of dementia? Whether on not you’ll be able to reach your loved one? I worry about this a lot, but this week someone who does that in their work has inspired me. Anna Park shared a video showing the power of connection in dementia care this week. Have you seen it?

It’s beautiful, moving, and it touched me deeply. It got me thinking about how I could share moments like this with you, how to let you know about people, books, experiences that inspire me that might also do the same for you. So I’m starting a new monthly series highlighting inspiring people in dementia care and caregiving.

Meet My Inspiration – Anna Park

This week I couldn’t help but share details of someone who inspires me to do and be better at caring for mum. If I could bottle up her talent and sprinkle that dust on me, I would. I wish she could be part of mum’s dementia care team during her last months (hopefully a long time away). I’ve followed her for a number of years, but the last few months she’s been sharing more of the work she does that has touched me.

Anna Park is a Dementia & Learning Disability Consultant, Speaker and Trainer working with loved ones living with dementia, advising health care professionals and the care sector . Her consultancy work specialises in communication, music, the arts, and digital technology.

She posts regularly on social media, but one particular moment stands out this week, as Anna shared a video of herself singing a hymn to a lady with late-stage dementia. Before I say more, watch the video showing the power of connection in dementia care through music. Click on the tweet below (or here) and watch until the end, it’s beautiful:-

You see what I mean? Anna teaches us that dementia may dim the light, but the person is still there. As Anna sings softly, something miraculous happens. You see, the lady slowly start to respond with her fingers, initially picking out the chords of the hymn, before raising her arms picking up the rhythm, and you see her breathing change as she starts to respond. 

Then you hear her start to sing, revealing an emotional connection to her past, and you hear Anna react herself, with the change in her own voice, as she realises she’s reached another part of her through the miraculous power of music. It’s so beautiful and I’m grateful that she captured this special moment for others to see.

That’s what inspires me about Anna. It made me laugh when I exchanged messages with her when she said that her own family didn’t fully understand what she did. You only have to watch her videos, images to see the beauty in those moments of connection. Through her compassion and creativity, she finds a way to connect to the whole person rather than just seeing them through the lens of dementia.

She interacts with each individual with patience and empathy. She approaches each person as an individual, taking time getting to know them. It’s clear she spends time exploring their interests, their passions, using this information to tailor her interactions. She’s shared many examples of this, but in response to how to connect to someone who’s deaf, she said:

“I often use a multisensory approach when hearing is limited. Coloured feathers, floaty scarves, shells, scents & soothing instruments that vibrate e.g. handbells, rain sticks & wind-chimes”

Anna Park

Anna taps into the transformative power of art, nature, and music to connect with people with dementia on a deeper level, to find the place that brings them joy. Her work makes the invisible, visible once more, through even in the smallest gesture, or moment. (Like this tweet below or click here)

She shares her passion for her work every day, in her interactions with loved ones with dementia, through the many books she reads to deepen her knowledge, and through the lived experience of working in dementia care for over 30 years.

She currently also works as a Special Advisor for National Activity Providers Association (NAPA) and worked for many years in the content development of the first interactive music & projection systems for special needs & dementia care – OMInteractive. You may have seen these amazing systems that provide sensory and immersive experiences for people with dementia and learning disabilities. Here’s Anna demonstrating the various features of the system, and you can also use it for projecting life story images.

She’s an inspirational person for me, and I hope I managed to convey the high regard that I hold for her in this post.

You can find her on twitter on @Annagoge or through her website where in her personal time she shares her love of barn dances through organising Ceilidhs & Barn Dances with husband for all occasions from weddings to birthdays, etc.

She’s also a keen volunteer, teaches guitar & piano, loves vintage dresses, being outdoors in nature and is passionate about the wellbeing and campaigns for rights of people living with dementia & learning disabilities. Clearly an engaging but very busy person!

Next month, I share my next inspiration – Kitty Norton, you might know her from her blog StumpedTownDementia or from the film she’s produced called Wine, Women & Dementia.

Til next time!

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