Blog Post Published January 2008

National Dementia & Recreation Conference November 2007

Last November the annual 'National Dementia & Recreation Conference' took place in Melbourne. Attending were some 500 members of the health profession; doctors, managers and recreational therapists.

A number of excellent speakers presented a range of topics over two days. The focus of the conference was on the challenges of delivering meaningful and diverse recreation programs to clients.

On the first day the emphasis was on 'exploring possibilities'. The audience was stimulated to be open to new ideas as well as to critically review their practices and discard some old ones. We talked at length about the five basic needs of clients with dementia as identified by Dr Tom Kitwood. Those needs were: comfort, attachment, identity, inclusion and occupation and can be used to guide our thinking when we consider the types of recreational activities people with dementia may find positive and pleasurable.

On the second day the topics were all about news research, legal concerns, volunteer's program updates and cultural considerations. I was pleased to recognise that my work place is pretty current.

One interesting part of the news research was the 'Virtual Music Instrument (VMI) which is a software program developed by Dr Tom Chau at Bloorview MacMillan Children's Centre in Toronto, Canada. The VMI software requires a computer and a TV. When in action the TV will show coloured patterns on the screen which will generate musical sounds depending on the action of the user. For instance: if the user touches one shape on the screen and click his fingers he will hear a soft pleasant music and if claps his hands loudly the musical sound will be much higher. The system was introduced to Australia by David Hobbs to be used with handicapped children. David demonstrated the VMI to a small group of War Veterans last year and found that the system would also have huge potential for use in Aged Care settings. The leisure and lifestyle area would benefit from it as well as Physiotherapists; to use with clients who are resistive to exercises and movement. I certainly could use it with my clients.

Overall the Conference was a well worth exercise; I talked to various colleagues and was able to ascertain how lucky I am in my current job.

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