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PEOPLE Hilary Lee
11/2/11 3:17:50 PM
Her work is now recognised internationally,
offering great hope to people with dementia,
their families, and other health professionals.
For many years Hilary used the creative arts to
help reach the life hidden deep within the person
with dementia. But her direction changed forever
when she attended a seminar r un by Jane Verity,
a visionary occupational and family therapist who
founded Dementia Care Australia and created
Spark of Life – a new approach to dementia with
the potential to have far-reaching consequences
throughout aged care.
The Spark of Life program focuses on reigniting
the human spirit and meeting the emotional needs
of people with dementia. Its theory is taken from the
principles guiding quantum physics, occupational
science, family therapy, person-centred care
and neuro-linguistic programming. Within an
organisation, the concept is embraced by everybody:
residents, staff, ancillary members and family.
Hilary was so inspired by what she heard she
implemented the program at the ag ed-care facility
in which she was working. The results were profound.
“I was working in a facility with people who
had alcohol-related dementia,” says Hilary. “Their
behaviour was quite challenging. Some of the
people had been transferred to this facility from
others who could not cope with them.”
It took less than a month to see results after
implementing the Spark of Life approach.
“The residents came out of their shell, they
became more communicative, happy to interact
socially, and joyful. Many of them were able to
come off their medication,” she says.
Previously this type of improvement for
people with dementia was considered impossible.
Today, Hilary is driven to educate people in the
philosophy of Spark of Life and to believe that
change can be made.
“Significant improvement in dementia care
is possible, but it will only happen if we can
see this potential.”
Hilary’s mentoring has supported and inspired
leaders to be role models for others. For example,
staff at Perth’s Maurice Zeffert Home were so
inspired by their results that they shared their story
at two international conferences, one in Adelaide
in 2009 and one in Vancouver in 2010.
Further international recognition came in 2009
when the Spark of Life program was awarded
the Excellence in Ageing Ser vices Award from
the International Association of Homes and
Ser vices for the Ageing (IAHSA). Spark of Life
was unanimously chosen, according to a board
member, because it has the potential to reverse the
declinist view of dementia and ageing in general.
Hilary had no doubt about the power and
potential of the Spark of Life program. “It was like
nothing else I have ever used,” she says.
“But when a program is not evidence based or
it doesn’t have evidence behind it, it is not taken
seriously by other health care professionals.”
So Hilary undertook a Masters degree in Science
to research the program. The process took more
than seven years, including a pilot study.
Hilary, now the President of Spark of Life ,
continues to work with many aged care facilities
in implementing the program.
“The results have been amazing,” she says
“Staff members have obser ved improvements
in memory, language, social interactions and
behaviour of their people in care.
“Spark of Life also makes a significant impact
on staff morale. That’s important when you consider
the huge staff turnover in the aged-care industry.”
Aged care is not the only application for
Spark of Life. Hilary believes it could benefit
healthcare, business, education and the wider
community. Today she works with international
leaders in many countries who are agents of
change in a variety of fields.
“I look forward to seeing many new projects take
off with the Spark of Life philosophy supporting
them, enabling them to have a lasting strength,
bonded by strong human relationships.” S
For more infor mation, visit dementiacareaustralia.com .
“The residents came out of their shell,
they became more communicative,
happy to interact, and joyful”
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