Blog Post Published October 2013

Psychosocial Therapy to improve quality of life

Last week I attended a lecture entitled "Quality of Life as Flourishing: What do We Know?".
The presentation was held the Queensland University of Technology and the guest speaker was Dr. Kimberly Van Haitsma, from Pennsylvania, USA.

Dr. Haitsma is a Clinical Health Psychologist with a specialization in geriatrics. She is the Director of the Harry Stern Center for Innovations in Alzheimer’s Care in New Brunswick, NJ. Her research focuses on issues relevant to quality of life and quality of care for persons with dementia.

I found the talk very interesting and exciting for the future in regard to caring for people with dementia. Despite never before associating the word ‘flourishing’ with dementia, I found the definition compelling. I was already aware of the concept with different wording.

'Flourishing' in the context of dementia is the building up of positive emotional reserve to improve quality of life and quality of care for people suffering from dementia.

Dr. Haitsma is an advocate of ‘Psychosocial Therapy’ - an increasingly popular form of therapy that uses a combination if individual psychotherapy and social therapy approaches.

Psychosocial interventions claim to help dementia sufferers with behaviour and psychological symptoms of the disease. Research into this area is still in its infancy but evidence-based practice has already revealed that it can decrease the use of anti-psychotic medication often used for difficult behaviour.

Yes, psychology has a lot to offer to help our understanding of dementia and when it comes, it will be welcome.

However, don’t hold your breath; our industry’s culture of 'task' orientation is still widespread; nursing homes are often under-staffed in the labour-intensive care of people with dementia

The education, training and evaluation of staff; professionals and para-professionals, will take time, man-power and money.These challenges have to be sorted out before moving forward.

In the mean time we will keep on doing the very best we can with patience, compassion and love.

So long

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