Colin the Companion

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Colin the Companion can bring joy to Alzheimer's sufferers

Alzheimer counselling chats - to be used with therapeutic tool

Counselling on two dimensions:

  1. Empowering the patient (client) with Alzheimer Syndrome (ASP).
  2. Guidance to the family in coping with the situation of AS.

The focus for the chats is within a counselling context. Thus, it is recommended that a family member or caregiver should assist the ASPs with the use of the companion cub. The ASPs may be guided/trained gradually to use the cub on their own later on.

Specific focal points within the counselling experience

  • Providing handles to assistants (family members, caregivers).
  • Focusing on understanding and mitigating the symptoms.
  • Sensitised to acknowledge and address transition between phases.
  • Training assistants in coping skills and making a difference.
  • Providing companionship and comfort to the ASP.
  • Multi-method approach: companion cub/snippet of music/subconscious message/'teaspoon full of sugar' - small substantial point to get across.

Counselling process informed by the ground rationale: as a condition, AS cannot be healed, arrested or turned around. Thus, the focus is not on psychological restoration; rather on recreation: not completion but companionship, assistance (being there) and comfort.

The process as recreational companionship may follow a gradual progressive pattern throughout the chats:

  1. Recreative companionship - being with and helping the ASP experience a positive psychological climate.
  2. Reconstructive care - helping ASP holding on to a small substance ('teaspoon full of sugar').
  3. Regenerative comfort - guiding ASP towards behaviour that makes a difference to them (even per counselling chat).

The focus for counselling chats:

  • The sight framework of the ASPs: what attracts their attention?
  • The basic needs of the ASPs: what are their immediate wants?

Provide silent guidance, ensuring human dignity and engaging the ASP through elementary/rudimentary interaction with the companion cub.

  • Human dignity, within the scope of people with AS.
  • Avoiding the universal view on human dignity and human rights - overstretched expectations and increased stress.
  • Avoid perception of 'geriatric infancy'; rather focus on empowerment.
  • Avoid highlighting issues that must be 'addressed' or instigating negative feelings.
  • Focus on moment-to-care basis catering for basic needs and providing immediate comfort.
  • Counselling chats focus on relaxing the psychological climate through here and now companionship. Thus, indirectly handling feelings (fear, anxiety, anger, aggression, distraction, confusion, etc.)
  • Avoid rationalisation or problem-solving; focus on the immediate experience through the five senses (which is affected less by cognitive damage).

Structure of counselling chats (four phases)

1. Run the routine: help establish a familiar environment:

  • Start every chat de novo - introducing Colin the cub.
  • Involve the assistant: caregiver/family member to make ASP comfortable, switching on the chat at first.
  • Depending on the phase of AS, the patient can be shown how to use the mechanism.

2. Set the scene: Explain in simple terms the theme of the chat.

  • Use need builder - focus on ASP's basic wants and perspective.
  • The companion cub invites the ASP into the situation.

3. Share the view: Use the theme to broaden the ASP's scope.

  • Provide piecemeal information on the theme.
  • Use music to help instil a positive psychological atmosphere.

4. Sow the seed: Empower the ASP with 'teaspoon full of sugar'

  • Provide positive experience to take away,
  • Focus on coping climate through companionship.
  • Provide (if possible) 'mantra' that is inculcated into the subconscious.
  • Companion cub ends the chat by graceful exit (to establish boundary).

During chats:

  • Avoid cross-references in chats: 'Remember when ...?
  • Avoid negative inclinations - attempting to rectify issues or solving problems.
  • Focus on selfless companionship and comfort: being there and sharing wonder moments.
  • Focus on voice tone of companion cub - tone down inflections or dramatisation.
  • Presented in a caring and comforting tone.
  • The identity of the companion cub is downplayed - merely Colin the cub, not Grizzly or bear, which may evoke negative emotional experiences.

Matrix of chats - focusing on the five senses (which is not/less affected by the AS condition)

20 chats (5x4)

Smellflowersbaked breadmotherearth after rain
Feel/touchrain on the facesoft breezeloving petssomeone's hand
  • Focusing on the five senses.
  • Linking it to feelings and behaviour.
  • Connecting it with basic needs and wants.
  • The sight can be linked to associated sound; for the rest, thematic music would suffice.
  • Broadening the scope and providing moment-to-care guidance.

Claude Vosloo
Home of Creativity for GRN

A Joint Project

This is a joint project with Global Recordings Network Southern Africa (GRNSA) as audio producer, partnering with Home of Creativity and Megavoice.

GRNSA developed the audio content for this project. Listen to Colin's chats - in English: Southern Africa.

Claude Vosloo from Home of Creativity wrote the script.

Megavoice designed and manufactured the animal.

You can be part of this project by sponsoring a Colin Companion for a patient (client) with Alzheimer Syndrome (ASP).

Total price of unit is R500 (US$27, A$41).

Additional therapeutic tools for the family and therapists

Download this information and more as a PDF file.

Download Colin Smart Card and Colin Glove Guide for family and significant others.

If you would like to be involved with this project click here to contact GRN Southern Africa.

As this project develops and grows, we will share more detailed information here and in our newsletter.

You can donate by clicking the button to your right, designating your gift 'Colin the Companion'.

Want to see more photos like the ones below? Visit the Colin Gallery on Facebook. No need to log in or sign up.

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