‘Bum Bag Brigade’ Transform the Lives of Service Users with Dementia

Care staff at a Northumberland care home staff have adopted a 1990s fashion accessory to help service users with dementia to feel calmer and happier. Using the retro bum bags, the staff carry a range of useful items that can be used to stimulate, engage or relax the people in their care.

The bags include playing cards with pictures of animals, flowers and Christmas-themed items, fragranced oils and even a lavender spray to help service users sleep at night. Staff carry their bags throughout the day and aim to use the contents when any opportunity arises. The pictures and aromas help to stimulate memories which can help to reduce anxiety and improve sociability and mood.

Home manager, Ann Mielnik, has nicknamed her staff the ‘Butterfly Bum Bag Brigade’ saying that: “Butterflies are colourful, can flit around a room or be still, can change the moment and can brighten a second in someone’s life. That’s the idea behind the bum bags – to provide a spontaneous opportunity to improve a resident’s day with a simple gesture. All of us can change someone’s day through small things”.

Read on to learn how your own ‘Bum Bag Brigade’ could improve the lives of the people in your care home.

Dementia Care

Innovative ideas such as the ‘Bum Bag Brigade’ show how cheap and simple ideas can often be incredibly effective. The contents of each bag cost only a few pounds but provide staff with the opportunity to interact with service users spontaneously by providing easy access to useful props.

When caring for someone with dementia, the right moment to enjoy a positive interaction is often ‘lost’ by the time a staff member returns from collecting an item from the activities cupboard or, in some cases, other priorities mean they may be called away and never return. Having useful equipment immediately to hand increases opportunity to spend enjoyable moments together and can improve the mood of a person with dementia for the rest of the day.

4 Useful Items for Positive Interaction with Your Service Users 

  1. Photographs: Photographs of recent events within your care home, family members or even pets can help stimulate conversation, build a connection and improve the mood of the person in your care. Any image of a familiar subject which evokes a positive reaction can be used.
  2. Postcards: Carrying a selection of postcards from familiar destinations can be an excellent way of encouraging reminiscence and bringing back happy memories of family holidays. Remember that for many older people, overseas holidays will have been a luxury so focusing on British resorts such as Blackpool, Torquay, Bournemouth or Great Yarmouth, will improve your chances of success.
  3. Aromatherapy oils: There are a huge range of oils available that can easily be carried in small bottles to be used when the right moment arises. Light citrus smells such as lemon or grapefruit offer stimulation, whereas lavender or chamomile can help with relaxation. You could even use scented oils extracted from familiar garden herbs such as basil, mint or rosemary to stimulate a discussion about cookery.
  4. Wrapped sweets: Although you would obviously need to bear in mind any dietary restrictions or swallowing problems, a small supply of wrapped sweets can be a useful addition to a bum bag. Offering a sweet is seen as a gesture of friendship and kindness and can often help to build a connection with a service user who may be withdrawn or can even be used to defuse a situation by distracting a person with dementia who may be agitated or showing signs of aggression.

To find out more about the great ideas your care sector colleagues are putting into practice across England, take a look at Care Quality Matters. Our expert newsletter features a monthly four-page supplement, Dementia: Care and Support, and is available in print and online editions.

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