Dementia increase sparks action

Right now, two out of three people in New Zealand are affected in some way by dementia.

Almost 60,000 kiwis have received a diagnosis (Alzheimer’s New Zealand 2015). As the number of older people in our community increases, so too does the incidence of dementia. By the year 2050, there will be an estimated 150,000 New Zealanders diagnosed with dementia.

What is dementia? Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a group of conditions that affect how well our brains work. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. While symptoms of dementia commonly include changes in memory, thinking, behaviour, personality and emotions, it’s different for everyone. These changes affect a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks, and as the disease progresses it can profoundly change a person’s everyday life and capacity to live un-assisted.

As Otago’s leading residential aged care provider, Presbyterian Support’s Enliven services for older people is always exploring ways we can better support our residents. We have already expanded the number of rooms in our care homes that are suitable for residents with dementia and continue to train staff in the specialist skills required to support them.

In seeking to continuously improve, one care programme, developed in Australia, has captured our attention – the Spark of Life Approach. Spark of Life works by focusing on effectively meeting the emotional needs of people with dementia - to feel appreciated, joyful, loved, and involved.

The Spark of Life Approach is a natural partner to PSO’s Enliven philosophy of care and works in perfect harmony with our principles of:
• Activity                     • Choice
• Contribution             • Respect
• Relationships            • Security

The Spark of Life Approach helps staff apply these principles by working at a detailed, personal level. It aims to reach the emotional core and renew the spark that enables people with dementia, and their carers, to find joy.

When practiced by trained carers, the approach results in people experiencing improvements in memory, language, communication, social interactions and behaviour. It nurtures the wellbeing of the human spirit through a gentle, practical and common sense approach to human relationships and communication. We want to implement the Spark of Life Approach across all our care homes where we are supporting residents living with dementia.

Our first step is to support one staff member to undertake a 21 day intensive training programme in Perth, Australia. After completing the training in May, Leigh McLeod, Clinical Coordinator Ranui care home, will become our Spark of Life Master Practitioner and progressively train our Enliven care worker and nursing team in the skills, language and techniques of the approach.

Over time, we would also like to train family members and carers in the Spark of Life Approach, so that they too can experience more joyful and meaningful interactions with their loved one.

The training is expensive, and will take time to roll out across all eight Enliven care homes. You can support this invaluable initiative by making a donation to our Spark of Life campaign. Your support will help us train more staff, more quickly, so that more people living with dementia can begin to experience the Spark of Life.



“I’m so excited about Spark of Life and learning how we can make a real difference in the lives of our residents and their families. Can’t wait to get training!” - Leigh McLeod, Clinical Coordinator Enliven Ranui, Alexandra (pictured)


Help us implement the Spark of Life Approach across all Enliven care homes in Otago.

Training is key to initiating and maintaining the Spark of Life Approach in our care homes. With effective staff training, the outcomes for residents, their families and carers are life changing. It is a transformative practice that will greatly improve the quality of life of residents living with dementia.

"You get amazing results straight away when you apply the principles of The Spark of Life Approach. The results just keep coming and now, after 18 months, we are amazed at the responses of our residents." - Helen Forrest, Archbishop Duhig Nursing Home – Queensland Australia

Members of the Presbyterian Support Otago Enliven team attended a Spark of Life workshop in Christchurch last year and were deeply moved by the impact the approach has, not only for people with dementia, but their carers too.

Spark of Life works by focusing on effectively meeting the emotional needs of people with dementia - to feel appreciated, joyful, loved and involved. The approach has been adopted by aged care facilities in Australia, Scandinavia, the US and Europe with outstanding results. It is also practiced at Enliven care homes in Wellington and the lower North Island with great outcomes for residents and staff.

Presbyterian Support Otago is investing in training for a Spark of Life Master Practitioner in May 2017. We ask for your support to help us train more staff, more quickly, across more care homes throughout 2017/18.

Please help us meet the growing demand for quality dementia care in Otago and donate to support Spark of Life training today.