New dementia program is Australian 'first'

CHEERFUL: House member Hazel Baynes, centre, with Louise DeWolf, left, who is Butterfly Model Co-ordinator, and Merrilyn Hewett, Director of Nursing, at Barunga Village in Port Broughton.
CHEERFUL: House member Hazel Baynes, centre, with Louise DeWolf, left, who is Butterfly Model Co-ordinator, and Merrilyn Hewett, Director of Nursing, at Barunga Village in Port Broughton.

The people living with dementia at Barunga Village are enjoying a brightly-coloured “butterfly” cocoon that is improving their lives and health.

Breaking with strict traditions of care, the nurses no longer wear uniforms, the medicine trolleys are hidden away and items from yesteryear, such as cups and saucers and kitchen cabinets, are used to create a “household” atmosphere from the house members’ era.

The 16 house members feed the poultry, join in making scones for morning tea and help prepare lunch.

The nurses wear brightly-coloured clothes and accessories and relate to the house members in an animated way.

“It is now more ‘go with the flow’ and more relaxed,” said Louise DeWolf, the village’s Butterfly Model Co-ordinator.

The Port Broughton-based village has been named as Australia’s first accredited provider of the ground-breaking dementia care program – the Butterfly Household Model of Care.

This was achieved after the first year of operation of the program for house members aged in their 80s and 90s.

The program was founded by Dr David Sheard, of Dementia Care Matters in the United Kingdom in 1995, and has since expanded to become a global dementia care culture change organisation with more than 50 Butterfly Homes around the world.

While dementia care has a history of being task-orientated and institutionalised, the model transforms the way people with dementia are cared for, with a focus on their emotions, and replicating home-like environments and everyday activities they enjoyed earlier in life.

Miss DeWolf said the system broke with the old routines.

“We were very good before, but we were very structured in our activities. It is an holistic culture change,” she said. 

“It is very different from the institutionalised model of care that we used to provide.

“We replaced our uniforms in the homes. Some staff have become more bright and bubbly in their interaction and they wear brightly-coloured accessories to break down the barriers. The people living here are a lot happier now because of the whole new approach. There is less stress and anxiety.”

The scheme is aimed at removing the sense of “us and them” in the village.

Miss DeWolf said there had been more laughter among the people living in the Butterfly Home plus “meaningful engagements with their families and our staff”.

Results have shown Butterfly Homes’ use of anti-psychotic medications has decreased. “In the past year, there has been a decrease in the number of falls and positive weight gain among the people in Butterfly House,” Miss DeWolf said.