Monday 20 September marks the beginning on Dementia Action Week, an important time to discuss the impacts of dementia in Australia.

Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH) chatted with Mel, one of the valuable Personal Care Assistants working within the memory support unit (MSU) at VMCH’s Providence Aged Care Residence in Bacchus Marsh. Mel's nan had dementia, and now Mel spends every day helping residents to retain their independence, and have fun in a warm, inviting, home-like environment.

Designed in line with Montessori principles of encouraging independence and daily participation, the MSU is a warm and welcoming space for people with dementia, and a contemporary addition to the organisation’s dementia care services.

Mel (centre) with residents at VMCH Providence Aged Care Residence, Bacchus Marsh Courtesy of VMCH

VMCH: What does a ‘normal’ day look like for you?

Mel: We start off by doing a check of all the residents, even if they’re still sleeping. We never wake them unless there is a real need. We then prepare the dining room, and assist the residents to get ready. In most cases the residents can shower and dress themselves with direction and reassurance, as keeping their independence is very important.

Residents can help themselves to breakfast as everything is labelled and easy accessible, and we are there to give help if needed. We then have activities, which are very person-centred, so we have something for everyone. We do gardening, painting, jigsaws, reading, sensory games, walking groups and more! Music and dancing is very popular, so we often dance and sing along. We also have some residents that love to help with the house-keeping, including doing the dishes, laundry folding, etc.

After lunch we have quiet time, and after this some of the residents help us bake for afternoon tea. Then we get ready for the late afternoon and evening, and to do it all again tomorrow!

VMCH: What is so special about the VMCH Providence MSU?

Mel: The unit itself is so beautiful, with lots of light and a lovely garden area. Everything is accessible to all of the residents, which helps make it feel like it’s their home. The staff don’t wear a uniform either, which adds to that feeling of being at home. We often sit down and have a cuppa or a meal with the residents which is also really nice; they (and we) love it. The amount of care, understanding and compassion in this MSU is beautiful.

VMCH: Why do you love working in the MSU?

Mel: I love being able to have that one-on-one time and building a relationship while getting to know the residents. I love knowing their backgrounds. We have a couple of real characters in here so having a giggle with them is just beautiful.

I love helping them have the quality of life they deserve.

Seeing the smiles on their faces when they have achieved something they haven’t done in a while is fantastic. It’s satisfying to help them overcome a bad day and smile on the other side.

For more information about VMCH Providence Aged Care Residence, or the Memory Support Unit, visit VMCH online or phone 1300 698 624.