It’s not easy caring for someone with dementia but sometimes, every once in a while, something truly amazing comes along that’ll not only put a smile on their face but yours too. Produced by Active Cues, a Dutch company specialising in items for use by those with pronounced learning, or cognitive disabilities, the Tovertafel Table is their latest weapon in the fight against dementia.
The original table was specifically designed to encourage those with the disease to move, speak and interact more thanks to a range of games, visual elements and fun sounds. Small, yet mighty the Tovertafel is entirely ceiling mounted. It doesn’t require much space and comes with plenty of built-in games plus complimentary tech support from a Tovertafel Buddy. It works thanks to a mini projector, infrared sensors, speaker and computer processor that work in harmony to project images onto the surface in front of you. Not only does the projector allow families to play games, and create patterns together but it also has lots of options for sound and light- all at the swipe of a finger.
Leading dementia research has shown that those with the disease respond better to colours than they do monochrome tones. Whether it’s moving digital objects, changing scenery, playing with light or doing a puzzle there’s something for everyone. Plus, unlike in a traditional board game, players don’t need to huddle together and users are free to interact as much, or as little, as they wish.
One of the other benefits of this type of technology is that it encourages social activity. Yes, you can play on your own but the games are more fun with others and may help to break the sense of apathy that some residents, especially in care homes, may feel. It’s not designed as a competition so don’t worry if all your loved one wants to do is follow the light, or say play with the swirling leaves because as long as they’re happy that’s all that matters. Believe it or not, even the games included have been created to combat dementia symptoms and are suitable for all levels of cognitive ability. For example, different experiences promote a range of emotions so when it comes to dementia it’s always good to have positive ones like sensory stimulation, relaxation and the opportunity for reminiscence.
That’s not to say that all of a sudden someone who is late stage into dementia is going to suddenly start talking about where they used to work, but a little game about growing flowers may trigger a memory of a country garden they visited years ago. Those who are still in the early stages can greatly benefit from games that promote humour, bonding, creative expression or sympathy. For instance, research has indicated people are much more likely to remember rhymes, songs or even little tunes than words, or sentences. The rhyming game encourages them to read what’s written and then find the right rhyming word. Of course, there are also basic functions such as ‘butterflies’, where all you need to do is gently move your hand across the table and watch them flutter over your fingers or someone else’s.
While it may not be possible to install a Tovertafel in your own home, they cost £5,000 per table, it is possible to raise the money for one to be placed in your loved one’s nursing home / or assisted living facility just like Pete James did. Sadly, his wife Nicole has dementia and happens to live in a specialist nursing home in Evesham, Worcestershire. Having set up a fundraising account online Pete, thanks to multiple donations, purchased the device for her home where all residents, visitors and staff are able to enjoy the table together. Mary Taskar, the manager at Nicole’s care home, expressed her delight to the local newspaper stating:
”The impact that this equipment has had in a short space of time has been incredible. Residents who didn’t tend to join in conversations or were prone to becoming agitated have become engaged, and many have shown absolute delight when playing these games.”
A cheaper alternative if you can’t access a Tovertafel Table is to download some dementia-friendly games, or apps on to your iPad for them to play or buy a smart TV, or cheap touchscreen laptop. The benefits will always outweigh the initial cost and it’ll be all worthwhile when you hear, and see how happy a few simple games, images, sounds or coloured lights can make someone living with dementia.