May 27, 2024

Volunteer Di and her guitar bringing joy to people with very severe symptoms of dementia

Volunteer Di and her guitar brining joy for people with very severe symptoms of dementia
Semi-retired, Di can also be found performing around the Illawarra as part of a duo called Kwozzi. [Supplied].

The residents of the Illawarra’s newly opened Specialist Dementia Care Unit (SDCU) at HammondCare Horsely, all at a stressful phase in their lives, are keen for more singalongs with volunteer musician Di Davies and her guitar.

Di’s comforting repertoire – including Pack Up Your Troubles, A Long Way To Tipperary, You are my Sunshine – is warmly familiar to the residents, who all were moved there after being unable to be cared for in mainstream aged care services.

“It’s great to be able to go into the lives of these residents, who have been doing it tough, and provide some happiness for them,” Di said.

“I know in the case of one person who was said to hate music, he came out of his room to come along and listen.”

“There wasn’t a great deal of singing going on, understandable, but they were enjoying it all.”

The eight residents in the SDCU, known as Hart cottage, are assessed for eligibility by Dementia Support Australia and referred by the Local Health District, and other agencies, after having severe behavioural or psychological symptoms of dementia including aggression, severe agitation, vocalisations, severe depression or anxiety or even being suicidal.

Hart cottage, opened in August, is one of 19 units around Australia funded by the Commonwealth under the Specialist Dementia Care Program. The Federal Budget this month included $30.4 million for the program.

Di has started providing singalongs in the Hart cottage as well as performing for other residents living with dementia at HammondCare Horsley’s other cottages earlier this year. Semi-retired, Di can be found performing around the Illawarra as part of a duo called Kwozzi.

Head of Volunteer Services Belinda Holst said HammondCare is seeking to recruit 40 more volunteers in the Illawarra – 20 for the Horsley dementia care village, including the Hart cottage, and 20 for HammondCare At Home services.

There are opportunities like driving buses, gardening, playing games, companionship or just taking a resident to the nearby Plant Room Café for a coffee and a chat.

Di, 58, of Albion Park, began volunteering earlier this year at HammondCare Horsley after her mum Lorraine became a resident of the HammondCare Horsley Whitely cottage after being diagnosed with dementia several years ago.

“If it’s something you can do, please think about it – you can change someone’s life,” Di said.

HammondCare General Manager Residential Care and Dementia Centre Angela Raguz said the Hart SDCU has got into a good rhythm after taking in its first resident in October last year.

All eight rooms have a person who needs that high level of support living in them.

She said the team of staff trained in supporting people living with dementia, including trained care workers, allied health professionals, Registered Nurses, GPs and a geriatrician, work together with the aim of reducing and stabilising severe symptoms.

“The objective for the team is to care for each individual, reduce their symptoms where possible and eventually support them to live in a less intensive care setting, including one of the cottages at Horsley,” Ms Raguz said.

“It’s rewarding for the team to see the residents engage and become less stressed.”

In addition to the Hart cottage at Horsley, HammondCare operates other SDCPs at Cardiff, Hammondville, and Erina in NSW and Caulfield, Victoria and Daw Park, South Australia.

 To learn more about volunteering at HammondCare, go to https://www.hammond.com.au/volunteer

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