A Deep Dive into Cognitive Stimulation Therapy

There is a lot of information available about what CST is, and the benefits a loved one living with dementia can access with this type of therapy.

Kaye, I’d love for you to explain how you got started with CST.

I started learning about CST during lockdown when I became a Care Professional. Lynn and Richard were leading the sessions online via zoom, through a programme supported by the wonderful charity,Memory Matters.

With one of my clients, who lives with dementia, we logged on to the zoom each week and participated. It was nice because the clients got to know each other, as well as Lynn and Richard. We did one season via zoom and then it began in person at Tavistock library.  These sessions are also supported byTavistock Memory Cafe  and our Dementia UK  local Admiral Nurse.

In person, another Care Professional, Sue became the facilitator, and I was going along to support my client. They suggested that I would drop her there and then pick her up at the end of the sessions. This works better because as their carer, you can often be a distraction, or they look to you for guidance. Really, it’s about them being there by themselves and enjoying participating independently. So, I would drop her off, go and have a coffee, and pick her back up at the end! For a while I didn’t know exactly the ins and outs of what they were doing during the sessions. But then Lynn asked me to help for the next season as Sue’s co facilitator and I became much more involved.

Can you tell me a bit more about what happens in the CST sessions?

The CST sessions take place in the smaller room in the library, where the Tovertafel is too. The Tovertafel is an interactive projector incorporating cutting-edge care technology to detect hand movements, is used at the start, as sort of a warmup. They have all sorts of games to play. My client is great, she starts brushing or flicking the leaves in the game or getting stuck in which encourages the others to start doing it and they seem to support lead each other on with using the Tovertafel.

There is a different theme every week. It kind of runs itself – that’s the whole point. It’s their session and their group, so Sue and I are just there to facilitate it and keep it on track if it needs to be. But if it goes off on a tangent it doesn’t really matter – that’s the whole point!

We had a jubilee theme recently during which we talked about the flags of the commonwealth, and the royal family. We’ve done a session on sounds; Sue brought her laptop to play animal train and sea sounds. They were encouraged to say what they thought the sound was. We did one session on smells and Sue brought in lavender bags and tea leaves. We another session based on childhood memories. It’s a lot of to do with taking them back and comparing the past to now. An example would be: if you think about transport – how did you get to school as a child and how do you think children get to school now?  The role of the facilitator is to elicit that conversation between the participants. The two keys of CST are improving cognition and quality of life. The social side of it is important.

What are the relationships like between members of the group?

The dynamics in the group have changed so much since the first session, when they didn’t interact much with each other. And they all love Sue, of course, because she does a brilliant job. At first, they seemed to enjoy the activities, but they didn’t interact much with each other, but come the end of the series they are all laughing, interacting, and talking to each other and we’d have to remind them about the activities!

You have been taking one of your clients regularly to CST since lockdown. Have you noticed any changes for this client’s quality of life?

I think I have noticed a difference since starting the CST with my client. I’ve been with her for almost two years, so I do know her very well. She’s much more outgoing than she used to be. Whether I can put it down to those sessions I don’t know… she certainly is more relaxed. Her family is always appreciated of the care professionals and the CST sessions, and always mention how they have noticed the difference in her sociability. I think she was quite depressed when I met her, but her outlook has really improved in these two years.

Like they say, a person living with dementia may not remember an activity, but they will remember the feeling they experienced at that moment– of being happy and of being valued. She’ll remember that somebody had made her feel good. When there is a gap between CST courses, the family still want us to have those long care calls with her, so I’ve taken her for lunch or for coffee out in town. My friend just opened a BnB in Princetown with a lovely ice cream shack. I took her up there recently and she thought it was the best thing ever, to do something so different and fun.

Thank you, Kaye, it’s been lovely chatting to you.

There is more information on the Alzheimer’s Society  website about how Talking Therapies can help someone on their journey with dementia.

As a Care Professional at Home Instead, there is every opportunity to get involved in innovative and important dementia care and other specialist care in our local community. Home Instead provides excellent opportunities for professional growth and lateral care skills. If you are interested in becoming a Care Professional, you can get in touch with Clare our Recruiting Manager, at [email protected].