“Turn the lights on” this holiday season with iCST

The holidays are fast approaching and many people are preparing to gather with close family and friends. For many, this is a time to reminisce and think of fond memories from past holidays. It is also an opportunity to see a family member with dementia. Here are some tips and ideas for planning meaningful activities for your loved ones:
Ideas for holiday activities:
  • Smell different holiday scents such as pumpkin, cinnamon, and pine. Ask your loved one how it makes them feel when they smell each scent.
  • Watch holiday movies or listen to holiday music. 
  • Look through old family photos from previous holidays. Talk about how these photos make them feel.
  • Do a simple holiday art project.
  • Drive or walk around a neighborhood and look at holiday lights. Talk about which types of holiday decorations are your favorite.
  • Bake cookies and decorate cookies together. Provide your loved one with simple instructions as they assist with the baking. You can always buy premade cookies to decorate to simplify the activity.
  • Take a walk outside, talk about different things that you see while walking.
Tips for communicating with your loved ones:
  1. Speak clearly. Use short and simple sentences.
  2. Ask your loved one how they are feeling instead of asking them direct of factual questions.
  3. Provide your loved one with choices when they need to make decisions.
  4. When talking to your loved ones, stand directly in front of them so they can clearly see you.
  5. If you are unsure what your loved one is talking about, be sure to clarify with them gently. They may be saying one thing and meaning something else.
  6. Use gestures or visual aids to support communication.
Washington University Occupational Therapy offers services for patients with mild to moderate dementia to help stimulate cognition through individual cognitive stimulation therapy. iCST is a research-based program (and standard of care for dementia patients in the UK http://www.cstdementia.com/ ) that promotes prompting memories and thoughts to stimulate working memory for assimilation and manipulation of thought. In the program, an OT guides individuals with dementia and their loved ones through activities to help improve the individuals’ cognition and quality of life. Learn more about our program and how to make an appointment.

Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) Offered Virtually

Washington University Occupational Therapy is now offering virtual sessions of individual cognitive stimulation therapy (iCST) with a goal of training care partners to administer sessions at home with their loved ones with dementia.

What is cognitive stimulation therapy? Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) is an evidence-based short term intervention created for people with mild to moderate dementia. It involves group or individual therapy sessions of themed activities to improve cognitive function using techniques that exercise various cognitive skills. The program was created by researchers in the United Kingdom and is a standard of care for those with dementia in the UK. http://www.cstdementia.com/

Does it work? CST was evaluated in a multi-center randomized controlled trial (Spector et al., 2003). There were significant improvements seen in the CST group compared to the usual care control group. Improvements were seen in memory, concentration, language, verbal skills, and quality of life. Additional qualitative research has shown that people with dementia and their care partners saw changes that generalized into everyday life such as improvements in mood and confidence and changes in concentration and alertness (Spector, Gardner, Orrell, 2011).

How do I participate? We are currently enrolling participants for a virtual individual cognitive stimulation therapy program. The goal of the collaborative program is to train care partners to lead cognitive stimulation therapy sessions at home with their loved ones with dementia. The program includes 7 virtual training sessions with an Occupational Therapist who is trained in CST, a binder of resources with over 40 suggested activities, and continued support as you learn the process of doing CST at home. Learn more about our CST program.

If you are interested in participating, please contact Lisa Carson at carsonL@wustl.edu or (314) 503-2231.