Māori with mild to moderate dementia mate wareware now, for the first time, have access to a new and tailored therapy that can improve their quality of life.
Developed in the UK and later adopted in at least 38 countries, Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) programmes have been available in New Zealand for ten years.
But it has now been adapted specifically for Māori thanks to Dr Makarena Dudley (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kahu), of the University of Auckland-Waipapa Taumata Rau with funding and support from Alzheimers NZ.
Haumanu Whakaohooho Whakāro – Māori is the first of its kind and a significant step in Aotearoa New Zealand’s efforts to find and provide valuable and viable dementia care.
The manual for Haumanu Whakaohooho Whakāro – Māori was launched at Te Mahurehure Marae Point Chevalier on Wednesday 1 March.
“CST has shown to improve cognitive functioning and quality of life with people who are in the early to moderate stages of dementia,” Dr Dudley says.
“But I think for any intervention to be effective, it has to fit within the cultural context of the person who is receiving it.
“There was evidence of this when we spoke to kaumatua with mate wareware on the marae for that window of time, all the difficulties they were experiencing – the confusion, the inability to find the right words, and so on – disappeared.
“And so Haumanu Whakaohooho Whakāro – Māori has been embedded within a Māori environment, both physically and mentally.”
The therapy comprises 15 activity-based sessions held twice weekly for seven weeks with groups of a maximum of eight people.
Based on theoretical concepts of reality orientation, validation, reminiscence, and cognitive stimulation, each session has a different focus.
These can include topics such as sounds, orientation, childhood, food, physical games, and current affairs – all of which stimulates thinking and memory recall.
“There is very little support available for whanau living with mate wareware in the community,” Dr Dudley says.
It is also essential for the participants to have fun and enjoy the sessions, Dr Dudley says.
“CST can address that gap by providing a platform for whānau to engage in a programme that has the potential to slow down the progress of mate wareware, in an environment that is embedded in tikanga Māori and te ao Māori.”
Alzheimers NZ chief executive Catherine Hall is delighted to have partnered with Dr Dudley for this important mahi, and looks forward to Aotearoa New Zealand’s first ever Māori CST programme being available.
“This work is incredibly important as it will support Māori and people living with dementia mate wareware to live their best possible lives in their communities.”
Collaborating on this project was also Clinical Neuropsychologist Dr Tai Kake (Ngāpuhi), Alzheimers NZ’s Dementia Learning Centre Director Dr Kathy Peri, and School of Medicine Associate Professor at the University of Auckland Dr Gary Cheung.
Following the launch, Dr Dudley will continue to work with Alzheimers NZ to train Māori CST facilitators and then help deliver the adapted programmes.
Pictured: Alzheimers NZ Chief Executive Catherine Hall and Dr Makarena Dudley