Much more detailed info will be available on our dedicated Yoga For Dementia Website launching shortly.
One of my key beliefs is that yoga is a practice that is suitable for everyone. Since returning from my Level I teacher training I’ve been particularly interested in teaching older people in residential care settings. After experiencing the benefits the residents were getting from yoga I was keen to offer these practices to a wider group of people on a more regular basis.
I was therefore delighted to be put in touch by Professor Martin Green (Care England) with Maggie Candy who manages the Marlborough Court Nursing Home (part of the Four Seasons group). Maggie has a progressive approach to managing this home and has turned a failing ‘facility’ into an award winning place that feels like a real home. Maggie was keen to introduce yoga to her residents and Maggie, Hayley (the activities coordinator) and started to introduce yoga-based exercise routines into the home in mid 2014. Marlborough Court has a floor specifically for Dementia suffers and Maggie thought that this unit would specifically benefit from the yoga.
Dementia is a growing issue for sufferers and their carers in residential homes. Symptoms include loss of memory, difficulty preforming everyday tasks, language problems, disorientation in time and space, misplacing things, changes in personality including depression, anxiety and anger and loss of initiative. Dementia costs the UK economy £23 billion a year (more than cancer and heart disease combined). It is estimated that by 2021 there will be one million people with dementia in the UK, with numbers doubling every year and no known cure. There is therefore an urgent need to develop and test interventions to improve the lives of those living with dementia and their carers. Through my work in the Tower Bridge Nursing home with residents with a range of conditions I was convinced that yoga would benefit Dementia sufferers. I was also aware that yoga and mindfulness based exercise have been proven to be an effective intervention for a number of common conditions that present in clients with living with dementia – for example: anxiety, depression, co-ordination and balance problems. McCall (2007) has also shown yoga to be an effective intervention for helping to alleviate other common conditions presenting in residential care environments such as Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, Insomnia, Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis, Post-Joint Replacement, Post-Stroke Rehabilitation, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Stroke, Urinary Bladder Dysfunction, and Urinary Stress Incontinence.
I presented my ideas on Yoga and Dementia at the Marlborough Court carers training day and was delighted when Dr Teresa Shaw from the Foundation of Nursing Studies suggested Maggie and I apply for a grant as part of their Patients First program (which seeks to support practice development projects). We were successful in our application for a small project to formally introduce and test a yoga program specifically for dementia clients.
This project will sought to trial a number of yogic interventions with clients with dementia over a 6-month period. The interventions will introduce simple exercises that combine movements with breath, breathing exercises, mindfulness practices, some chanting and partner work. It was able to further research and evaluate these exercises, and overcome workplace barriers to introducing these new techniques. It provided evidence of the outcomes of these yoga-based techniques.
In the end the trial ran for 18 months was very successful and I am happy to say the yoga classes continue to run in the care home.
The project is now concluded and the final report is available below. You can also see a documentary about the project on our Video Testimonies and Documentary Page.