Valios reports on an award-winning mobile project in the West Country that is
harnessing the power of complementary therapies to help people with dementia
and their carers.
Free is a reiki master. A qualification in this ancient Japanese therapy may
seem unusual for a professional working with people with dementia and their
carers, but a mobile therapy unit offering reiki, aromatherapy and reflexology
is seeing positive results – one of which was to win the carers’ category of the
Community Care Awards 2000.
Dementia Care Trust works with people with dementia and their families in
Bristol, Gloucester, the Cotswolds, and Weston-super-Mare. It provides
practical respite care in their own home, emotional support for carers and
former carers, support groups, a day care service, and in Weston-super-Mare, a
twice weekly luncheon club for carers and clients. It has also recently started
a street work project in Gloucester for people with dementia who are homeless.
1999, the trust set up a mobile therapy unit to offer the three complementary
therapies to carers and the family member with dementia in their own home to
relieve symptoms of stress and to increase feelings of well being.
charities for children or animals, the world of dementia can seem a less
appealing area to support financially, says Free. Consequently, the trust
wasn’t sure that it would be able to find funding for the project, until it
came across financial services company Allied Dunbar. It supports areas that
are perceived as less attractive to other funders, including dementia.
there is a wide variety of complementary therapies to choose from, the decision
on which therapies to use was made easy for the trust by the fact that as well
as Free’s knowledge of reiki, one colleague was an aromatherapist and another a
reflexologist. "They are subtly different therapies and we thought our
client group would find them comfortable to work with," says Free.
the first year, the unit had 76 referrals – a referral comprised one family
each with a minimum of two people, rather than an individual. This year,
referrals will be for individual members of the family to make the service more
flexible to people’s individual needs. The growing impact of the project is
illustrated by the fact that during the first week of May, Free had already put
through the 62nd referral to the project since January. Referrals are either
users of the Dementia Care Trust’s other services, or come from GPs, community
mental health teams, or social services teams.
the first year, users were not charged for therapy sessions but this year the
unit is asking clients to contribute £5 per session if they can afford it. Each
session costs about £28 to administer, which includes management and
supervision time, and the therapist’s fee of £20. "This is quite low,
there’s a lot of love in there!" says Free.
consists of a massage with oils and can be full body, hand and feet, head and
shoulders, or back. It can be difficult to explain to a person with dementia
why they need to take their clothes off and lie wrapped in towels. In these
situations the carer can have a body massage while the cared-for person has a
massage which doesn’t involve undressing, says Free.
mobile unit occasionally makes use of the Dementia Care Trust’s relief caring
service in the community, by paying a relief carer to be with the person with
dementia while their carer enjoys a massage. This leaves the carer feeling able
to relax, in the knowledge that the cared-for person is in safe hands in their
home, particularly as the relief carer is often already known to them.
is a system of massage through reflex points on the feet used to relieve
tension and treat illness. It has had surprising results – one man with
dementia had forgotten that he could stand up and walk, but after sessions of
reflexology he walked down the street with his wife.
many people have tried, or at least heard of, aromatherapy and reflexology,
reiki is less well-known. "The idea is that you can draw energy through
yourself and pass it through your hands to another person," explains Free.
have to believe in the power of reiki – sceptics will not have any positive
results, says Free. "It’s a healing hands process. The belief behind it is
that the person receiving it will use it however they want – to stop an ache or
pain, to help them sleep better, or deal with a memory that’s upsetting them.
It works on all levels, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual."
there have been "wonderful results", enthuses Free. One client wrote
to the unit saying that "it was like receiving sunlight into their
another case, a daughter and her husband were looking after her mother who had
dementia. One symptom of dementia, which was the case in this situation, is the
need to know where the carer is all the time. The whole family had reiki
sessions and the therapist said that it changed the whole atmosphere in the
family home. The mother’s anxiety was allayed and this automatically lessened
the stress on her carers.
the three therapies have resulted in improved sleep patterns, less stress, more
energy and cleared away angst and distress for both people with dementia and
their carers. Free is keen to stress, however, that at no time has the trust
ever thought that the three complementary therapies are an alternative to
medication. And all clients are advised to tell their GP that they are being
offered these therapies.
the unit offered four sessions per person, but with money from the Community
Care award, the unit has upped this to six sessions. The money also means
that once these are completed, clients can be offered up to four extra sessions
at the therapists’ discretion if it is felt it would be beneficial for clients
to continue. These extra sessions can be flexible – maybe just one or two over
a couple of weeks, or once a month for a few months.
one has ever turned down therapy or has wanted to stop when sessions have
started, but there is not enough funding to continue indefinitely. "Some
people can continue to have therapy privately, for others they have to stop and
that’s a great pity," says Free.
agency has stepped forward to offer more funding. But after learning of the unit’s
success at the Community Care awards, Bristol social services department
has agreed to fund the training of the Dementia Care Trust’s 16 relief carers
Care sponsored the carers category of the Community Care Awards 2000.
Mobile Therapy Unit.
Staff at the Dementia Care Trust became interested in complementary therapies
in the late 1990s. The trust decided it would like to offer a range to its
clients. It discovered that financial services company Allied Dunbar had a
dementia care project. In February 1999 the trust put forward a proposal to set
up a service that would offer complementary therapy to the whole family in
their own homes. A month later Allied Dunbar agreed to fund it and the unit started
in September 1999.
Allied Dunbar has provided £50,000 over three years to fund the unit’s work.
Seven therapists are employed on a sessional basis. Tina Free spends eight
hours a week managing the unit; her full-time job is to run Dementia Care
Trust’s counselling department.
Families in the greater Bristol area where a member of the family has dementia.
Free, Mobile Therapy Unit manager, Dementia Care Trust, Kingsley House,
Greenbank Road, Bristol BS5 6HE. Tel: 0117 952 5325.