When you walk into the Leisure Lounge at Providence Care Hospital, it’s as if you’re stepping into someone’s living room.
The welcoming, home like atmosphere is a new space on Parkside 2.
It’s bright, colourful and features a sitting area, dining table and even a television.
But the room is more than just a vibrant space.
Everything, from the way it’s decorated to all the knickknacks in the lounge, was carefully picked with patients in mind.
That’s because every patient on the unit is living with some form of dementia which could impact their memory, language, other cognitive skills, and the ability to perform everyday tasks.
Many also have responsive behaviours associated with their dementia.
Meaning their actions, words and gestures often express something important about their personal, social and/or physical environments.
“The individuals on the unit are here to stabilize the behavioural and psychological symptoms from their form of dementia. Their needs require a greater level of care than what their previous environment could provide them at the time,” explained Stacy Jowett, the unit’s Recreational Therapist.
“We see some physical aggression, some verbal aggression. Once the behaviours have stabilized, the goal is to return them to their previous home or the most suitable environment that best suits their needs, so they can engage safely.”
That’s where the Leisure Lounge comes in.
It’s filled with activities based on the Montessori Method for dementia.
The exercises use everyday items to stimulate a patient physically, emotionally and cognitively.
“Most people are aware of Montessori being a certain type of education for children featuring different activities they’re interested in or curious about,” said Angela Dickieson, a Clinical Educator with Providence Care.
“The Montessori Method for dementia is the same idea. But these are more meaningful activities our patients may have been involved in or interested in when they were younger.”
“It brings them back to where they were. They’re activities that are familiar to them and are purposeful,” added Jowett.
Say for example if a patient was in construction and used to work with their hands, there’s a replica drill for them to use.
If someone was a homemaker they could fold towels, wash dishes or arrange flowers.
There are even dolls that look like real babies to care for.
Patients are not only reconnecting with a personal experience from their past, but the activities also give them a sense of accomplishment.
“It’s patient-centred care. We’re meeting them in their time and their reality, and we’re focusing on what they’re able to do. Not what they can’t do,” explained Dickieson.
“Our clientele has changed so much that we have to be more responsive to their current needs and I think this room will allow us to meet those needs a little bit better. It just one more tool in our toolbox,” Jowett added.
To help ensure the Leisure Lounge would be engaging for patients, Dickieson, Jowett and the Parkside 2 team enlisted the help of placement students to not only give the room a makeover, but also find worthwhile activities.
“I interviewed family members to find out about patient’s interests, past hobbies, careers, and family life,” said Jessica Almeida, a third year nursing student with Queen’s University.
“Before the room was a practical kitchenette, but now it offers many purposes.”
Everything in the room was either donated by the community or purchased through Providence Care’s Patient Comfort Fund.
“My favourite part is how homey and welcoming it feels,” smiled Rayan Howes, who is completing her Bachelor of Science in nursing at St. Lawrence College and Laurentian University.
“By giving patients small, meaningful activities, it’s keeping their minds busy to help reduce outbursts and increase their quality of life at the hospital.”
The space is open 24 hours a day.
To help keep things safe, activities and items that require one-on-one supervision are locked away.
Patients are welcome to use everything else day or night.
“We have so many ambulatory individuals who like to roam. I think this room will give them a spot where they can wander in and just independently engage,” Jowett said.
“Our goal is to reduce the need for prescribed medications, help deescalate certain behaviours and create a safe space for patients,” Dickieson added.
It’s only been a couple months, but the lounge is already making a difference.
“We had one gentleman who had an escalating incident. After he was given medication I brought him into the room and gave him towels to fold. While we were chatting I told him how good he was at folding and he said ‘my wife always makes me fold laundry’. So this activity brought him back to something he used to do and was distracting him from the agitation. It was familiar and purposeful, and within 45 minutes he was calmer,” explained Jowett.
Loved ones, support workers and volunteers are also encouraged to use the 24/7 space during visits.
The team behind the lounge is currently creating an activity guide that outlines the many exercises that can be done.
And because the activities are simple and incorporate everyday items, they can be modified to fit a patient’s skillset.
“I think a lot of times loved ones have trouble having a meaningful visit. Sometimes it’s difficult to activate and engage a person living with dementia, so our hope is they use this space, do an activity together and from there have a conversation,” Jowett said.
And this is only the beginning.
The beauty of the Leisure Lounge is its look and featured activities can change, depending on who patients are and their interests.
That way it continues to be a meaningful space for years to come.