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Dancing Around Dementia At Hamiota’s Birch River Lodge

     Just over seven months ago, the Hamiota District Health Centre, in conjunction with Birch Lodge Personal Care Home, did a two-step of sorts, partnering with a Brandon University doctor —and a researcher from Ontario —who were involved in research stemming from a unique dance project.

     The project, entitled “Improving social inclusion through sharing dance”, focused on improving the lives of people living with dementia.  It also took into account how health-care providers could enhance activity interventions, which included aspects such as music, dance and expressive arts. Originally, the project, which involved a 45-minute seated dance class, took place at Birch Lodge for eight weeks (April until June 2019).

        Based on activities that were already happening within the Birch Lodge recreation and activities department, and this unique project, it’s easy to conclude an enhanced arts-based, social approach is not just another song and dance.

        “Residents and families loved it, we were all surprised how far everyone came along!” said Dana Routledge, Recreation Coordinator at Birch Lodge. “Our families and volunteers witnessed the biggest achievements. Music and dance is extremely powerful. Those that can hardly sing 2 or 3 words together were able to sing and respond to an entire song! It brought everyone even closer together.”

     Dementia is a complex, progressive degenerative condition that affects more than 500,000 Canadians. Addressing barriers in care settings requires careful attention to those living with dementia as well as improving skillsets of caregivers, who continue to provide opportunities to improve physical, emotional and neurological health.

     In addition to Hamiota, three other Personal Care Homes within Prairie Mountain Health region participated in the project: Neepawa, Carberry and Minnedosa. The Prairie Oasis Seniors Centre in Brandon also took part.

     Routledge added that the Lodge already conducted a chair dance program but participating in the Sharing Dance Seniors initiative allowed the care home to focus its routine while providing valuable research into the growing base of health and neurological research.

     “All staff was on board in our facility, from those cleaning the floors to those serving an early lunch, all of us. Recreation looked after all consents and paperwork, including on-line facilitating courses, and organization of 15 volunteers.  With the use of the Smart TV, instruction was streamed on-line, and recreation led beside the television.”

     Birch Lodge now continues with a similar program held every second week.

     “They asked if we would participate again maybe next year, and I absolutely agreed. It has been an honour to be asked actually,” Routledge stated.

Sharing Dance Hamiota

Recreation Director Dana Routledge leads a chair dance session at Hamiota’s Birch River Lodge—one of four PMH Personal Care Homes involved with a dance research project initiated in Ontario.  (Picture courtesy of Brenda Hunter).