ItSoWel project to stimulate older Italians living with dementia

STIMULUS: Illawarra MPs Paul Scully, Anna Watson, Stephen Jones, Sharon Bird and Ryan Park (missing) donated $1000 to Giovanna Cardmone. Picture: Sylvia Liber.
STIMULUS: Illawarra MPs Paul Scully, Anna Watson, Stephen Jones, Sharon Bird and Ryan Park (missing) donated $1000 to Giovanna Cardmone. Picture: Sylvia Liber.

Five Illawarra Labor politicians coughed up a combined $1000 for a project which will create an Interactive Sensory Cultural Resource for Italians living with dementia.

A thankful ItSoWel executive officer Giovanna Cardamone, was hopeful the community would follow suit and support efforts to create a sensory stimulus book for Italians with dementia.

ItSoWel are hoping to raise $10,000 towards the project.

Mrs Cardamone said the book would be interactive, creating smells, sounds and visual stimulus to evoke memories and improve levels of engagement of people living with dementia.

Persons with dementia from a culturally and linguistically diverse background display many challenging behaviours due to language and cultural barriers.

Often care workers and families struggle to engage these persons in activities.

“The stimulus book is about stimulating the memories of that elderly person. Once you stimulate the memories it is much easier to connect with them,” Mrs Cardamone said.

“The sensory stimulus book is about evoking memories through visual stimulus, through smells, through touch and through sounds.

“These will be specifically the memories of our elderly Italians.

“So it could be for example the smell of basil. It could be a picture of something from their past, which is common to all Italians.

“For us it is very very important that we continue to fill the gaps which still exist in aged care for ageing persons from a culturally diverse background, specifically Italians.”

Whitlam MP Stephen Jones said it was a great cause with an ageing population.

“We are encouraging members of the community to stick their hands in their pockets. The least we can do is the same ourselves,” he said.

“We need to find better and more culturally appropriate ways for the members of our multicultural community to age in their community  and to ensure we look after them, the way they have looked after us.”

Mrs Cardamone said while The Seasons of my Life Through Italian Eyes – An Interactive Sensory Cultural Resource project obviously concentrated on Italians, other groups could follow suit.

“Everything we do can be copied by other groups. If groups like our stimulus book they can copy it,” she said.

“The Greeks can pick it up and do the same thing. The Macedonians can pick it up and do the same thing.

“So we are actually creating models that can be used with other communities as well.”