New South Wales care provider Carrington Care has been running the 'Through Our Eyes' reminiscence program since 2011, in a partnership with a local Catholic high school.
“It was designed to engage high school students with residents,” chief executive of Carrington Care Raad Richards explains. “The purpose of that was to have the intergenerational interaction between teenagers and people in aged care so they can learn from each others experiences.”
Each year, students are matched with a resident who they visit every week over a period of 3 months, listening to the resident's story, learning about the life of the resident and hearing the wisdom of the resident who is able to look back on the things that they have learned throughout their lives.
The students help the resident to remember and explore the significant events of their lives, as well as the small things that have brought meaning even to the mundane moments.
This reminiscence might be achieved with the assistance of photographs of the residents' lives, by listening to music together or through discussion about their families, work and joys.
“Both Carrington and the college felt that the students were getting an enormous benefit out of that engagement,” Mr Richards says.
Residents talk to the students about historical events that happened in their lives, where they met their spouses, how that happened and if they are migrants, what they did before coming to Australia.
Other residents talked about their experiences during the war or living in another state and what they did when they were younger, Mr Richards explains.
“It became a reminiscence program for our residents but it is also teaching the students about historical backgrounds. From that point of view the program became quite popular and students were actually competing to be part of the program in subsequent years, he says.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the success of the program. It’s been a really beneficial part of the person centred care we provide for our residents.
Over the years the program has grown in popularity. ln the first year, 11 students were matched with five residents. This year, 22 students have been matched with 18 residents.
At the end of the 3 month project, the residents and their families are invited to attend a presentation afternoon. Students present their residents with photographs and read some of the resident’s life story. Each resident is then given a copy of the presentation in the form of a booklet, along with a DVD, which they can view again at their own leisure, as well as share with family or friends.
“We view the presentation as an important element of person centred care that we provide to our residents. That’s our philosophy of care at Carrington and this forms a major part of it. Where the families, residents and students are invited to be together and enjoy and learn from life experiences of those residents,” Mr Richards says.
Some young people have stayed on as volunteers in the facility and Mr Richards says one student has since graduated in physiotherapy and is now employed at Carrington Care.
The Quality in Pastoral and Spiritual Practice Awards celebrate organisations who can demonstrate a sustained and effective program or project that meets the spiritual needs of older people.
“The choice of this program as our winner sends a clear message that meeting older peoples’ spiritual needs is about so much more than religious observance,” says Meaningful Ageing Australia chief executive officer (CEO) Ilsa Hampton.
When presenting the award, Ms Hampton commented that the judges appreciated that the program explores the full life story of the older person.
“The judges commended Carrington for their sensory approach, which we know is particularly important for those with dementia,” she says.
“Carrington were also acknowledged for relationship building with family members, students and residents; as well as for providing a potential career pathway for young people into aged care.”