Ceilidh@home … It is worth saying from the onset that this activity is not about an accordion dance band in the living room! Unless of course that is what the person wants, and I am sure it can be arranged, even if it is just digitally in these strange times. To ‘ceilidh’ in the Western Isles can simply mean to visit …
Ceilidh@home focuses on reaching out to people that are not able to attend our wide range of community activities and our services for various reasons. We know from experience that many people living with advanced dementia were socially isolated and restricted long before covid and this will continue as supports diminish especially in remote and rural areas. In response to this we had already developed this activity to enable 1-1 support visits in the home with a team of skilled staff and dedicated volunteers. We support with life story, community connections, therapeutic activity and support for carers/families.
During covid we initially quickly adapted this activity to a digital platform until 1-1 approved safe visits could restart. It sounds so simple (it wasn’t, it was tough) but it happened! We supported carers/families to access equipment and support they needed to connect digitally. The outcomes have been surprisingly positive even to us and especially to us old cynics! It has increased our reach and we rediscovered that geography is no longer necessarily a barrier. As well as local events we can link to national events such as dementia dog bingo – a popular choice. We can now be connecting to events from Shetland to the Borders … and beyond!! BUT we learned that it still required a lot of human input to make it work for individuals who are living with dementia in more advanced stages. It needs a ‘wrap around the person’ approach.
We introduced two spin off digital projects ‘Getting to know me’ for people new to our supports and ‘Keeping connected’ for care homes and where physical visits are not possible as well as our 1-1 face/face visits. We work creatively and flexibly to make sure we keep as many people as possible connected. Our volunteers currently offer well-being phone calls and activity packs for those who cannot connect digitally and we adapt the size of the group if people have sensory issues or difficulties or if they prefer a small group or 1-1 session. Alternatively on our visits we may not link up to digital events and only use the therapeutic 1-1 face to face model if that is what suits the person. Digital activity is a great offer but we must recognise it does not suit everyone!
Cultural identity and citizenship are key. We have supported people meet their spiritual needs which is culturally very important in the Western Isles to many people that we support. Activities are diverse and person centred, based on the needs and preferences of the individual. All activities are offered in Scottish gaelic to fluent gaelic speakers and for many people this is remains essential.
The most important feedback we ever received from a family member was very simple but hard hitting “thankyou for not forgetting about us”. It really motivates us to think about people’s real situations and it gives us the passion and determination to find ways to keep connected.
We are strong in our belief that action and practical support remains the most important aspect for people living with dementia and their families. We do not want to sit round tables (or behind laptops) talking about what we think is needed when we clearly hear from people time and time again that what they need is to be listened to and action – Actions speak louder than words!
Marion MacInnes is the Locality Leader for Alzheimer Scotland in the Western Isles.