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Highlights of the year and what to expect for 2023

As we approach the end of another year, it is time to look back at all that we have achieved and the many families we have helped.  This is a particularly special year as we celebrated our 5th anniversary!

This year also saw us escape the Covid lockdown and the tough impact the pandemic had on us and everyone we serve.  We are so grateful to still be here 2.5 years later.  It has also been a pleasure to be able to re-open to the local community and over the year we have welcomed the Primary School children for carol singing and managed to have several live music concerts.

Looking back over the last 12 months we have understandably focused on stability.  Focused on the families and individuals we help and ensuring our team have the training and support to do an outstanding job.

Highlights include:

  • January 1st launched our new brand The Ness Care Group
  • Welcoming Jo as our Clinical Lead and a specialist in speech and language
  • Renovating and growing our newest Hub in Chudleigh
  • Launching new Active Minds CST groups in Totnes, Torquay and Okehampton.
  • Launching the new NHS validated measurement tool FIM & FAM.  We are the first organisation in the UK to utilise this clinical measurement system in the whole of the United Kingdom and this allows us to closely track the mental health & cognitive function of every member who attends our service.  Truly innovating in the treatment of the disease and proving the beneficial impact of our therapy.  We are proud that we are the first dementia specialists to be led by clinical professionals, use therapies that impact the disease and prove this through a validated measurement tool.
  • Welcoming 10 new staff to our team.
  • Celebrating 5 years open and helping families across Devon!

We are so proud of the thousands of moments we have helped families and individuals across Devon below is some visual data to show this:

There are 3 categories of data all visualised as below example:

  1. Advice & Training
  2. The Hub – visits, people helped, CST sessions and lunches
  3. Home Care – number of hours, number of assessments, number of individual cst

 

Dementia support devon

Looking forward to highlights in 2023

  • Launching a new and exciting Ness Hub in Exmouth
  • Launching new Active Minds groups in Seaton and Tiverton
  • Growing our Outreach Team to cover all South & East Devon
  • Partnering with Plymouth University and welcoming Nursing and OT students to our Hubs.
  • Working with Somerset Foundation Trust on their dementia strategy.

 

NEUROPLASTICITY WHAT IS IT? AND HOW CAN WE USE IT IN DEMENTIA TREATMENT?

I recently watched an excellent TED talk by Dr Lara Boyd on neuroplasticity within Stroke rehabilitation and what struck me was the similarities between dementia and stroke rehabilitation. Although, before someone calls me out, I am aware that dementia is degenerative (with no cure) and Stroke rehabilitation is regenerative with the aim to improve brain function ,but that said I strongly believe that dementia treatment should, like stroke, have it’s foundations in neuroplasticity.

What is Neuroplasticity?

This is a fancy way of saying ‘Plastic Brains’ and an explanation can quickly become complex. However, modern science today recognises that all human brains are made up of billions of networks of neural pathways – connections. These networks of neurons are constantly changing, sometimes being removed if under used, and often being added to, to create new connections and learn new skills. This adaptive quality of our brain is called neuronal plasticity, allowing our brains to take in new information and to utilise our current experiences as efficiently as possible. If our brains get damaged we have the ability to form new pathways and potentially maintain functions and memories. I am going to leave the explanation at that simple definition but if you are interested there is a huge amount of research into neuroplasticity and how our brains can adapt and recover (I have added below a link to a quick video if helpful).

How can we use this amazing healing power with dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term for multiple different types of neurodegenerative diseases that include Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. However, all types of dementia cause damage to the neural pathways that I mentioned above, and eventually can damage large parts of our brain causing loss of memory, loss of function and the lost ability to manage complex tasks. However, what research has shown is that the progression of the disease is not the same for all individuals and that if you can work to maintain brain stimulation, be encouraged and supported to form new connections, to repeat (called memory stamping) actions and stimuli then despite the dementia your brain will continue to show neuronal plasticity, and continue to form new connections. This neuroplasticity lies at the heart of the theory that backs up cognitive stimulation therapy, reminiscence therapy, creative therapy and many other stimulating therapeutic actions.

The good news is that this isn’t school. For those living with dementia there is no expectation they should be spending hours learning a new language or practicing maths to improve their brains and achieve neuroplasticity. We are social animals designed to learn from each other and our brain function improves the more we interact and connect. Cognitive stimulation therapy takes into account social learning/connection, memory stamping (repetition and routine), and concentrating on a specific part of your brain like language, facial recognition, numbers, complex tasks and makes it fun. Behind the scenes a good facilitator is utilising CST to strengthen neural pathways and maintain brain function.

Although the opposite is also true. For those families and individuals who get a diagnosis of dementia and become more isolated, spend more time alone or in a couple with only the TV for stimulation the faster the deterioration and the less neuroplasticity occurs. There is no fix for dementia, there is no pill that can cure the disease but equally we should not ignore the amazing piece of equipment that sits between our ears. A diagnosis should immediately be followed by a prescription for cognitive stimulation and encouragement by doctors and nurses to seek out and find stimulating, fun groups that can encourage new brain pathways and allow neuroplasticity maintain our current function.

That is what we do at The Ness, we work with individuals and families to improve a persons neuroplasticity and maintain their memories and brain function. This treatment can and does slow the disease progression!

Neuroplasticity, Animation. – YouTube

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