SummitCare Wallsend is heavily invested in the well-being and connectedness of its residents.
'Warmth, Worth and Wellbeing' are core values that shape the person-centred care staff provide with the choice and dignity the elderly population deserves.
One of the ways SummitCare Wallsend encourages well-being and connectedness is through the use of Creative Therapeutic Engagement (CTE).
Each week Engagement Specialist Maurie Voisey-Barlin visits the Wallsend facility and interacts one-on-one with residents, particularly those with a dementia diagnosis, or who are self isolating, living with depression, boredom or loneliness.
"My role is to build a relationship that is fun, creative and meaningful," Maurie explains. "I'm looking to unlock the person and find their sense of humour. Get those happy hormones going. It's often lost in an aged-care environment."
Maurie will then stage performance pieces built around that information using various strategies - humour, comedy, jokes, validation, slapstick and music.
"I play the ukelele and combine reminiscence, nonsense, mischief and banter to tap into that natural playful state," Maurie said. "It's about connecting with someone in a meaningful way, and a smile is a great KPI."
The results of are unbelievable, according to SummitCare Wallsend general manager Robyn Blackwell.
"Maurie unlocks things and the results are startling," she said.
One resident normally sits inert all day, caught up in her thoughts.
"When I break out the ukelele she becomes very activated physically," Maurie said. "She starts conducting, she loves a big finish and generally becomes more cogniscent for a brief time. It's about finding those positive triggers."
Maurie cites another resident with early dementia who still has insight but is worried about depression
"It's a scary journey and our interactions are really over the top based in jokes and banter but he always ends it by saying 'you're a good bloke mate'," Maurie said. "It's about camaraderie and he'll always tell Robyn, 'Maurie is worth more money'."
Robyn said SummitCare invests in the CTE program because the clinical responses are so clear and have so much potential.
"Maurie's program is a viable non-pharmacological response to decreasing agitation," she said. "When I watch Maurie working with a resident I see and hear joy and happiness and I am proud that we tackle depression in such an innovative way."
Maurie, who has worked in this realm since 2012 utilishing his extensive training and experience in street theatre and performance art, works a lot with the families of residents.
"I ply them for those details of their loved ones and use them as tools to make the interaction more productive and bring them alive," Maurie said. "I also report all that stuff back to staff so they can act on it too."
In many ways, Maurie said, families really are the client in aged care and it's important that they know that there is something they can do to celebrate their mother or their father and the life they've had.
"Summitcare really embrace wellbeing and connecting the individual and is always looking for better ways to achieve this," he said.
"We all strive for perfection and in aged care that is a complex proposition, but SummitCare Wallsend are constantly in pursuit of it and that energises me."