A simple hug from a little boy that brought a 95-year-old to tears has started a bigger, meaningful movement at Bupa Aged Care in Edithvale.
After seeing how much a visit from the local kindy kids meant to Eric James, who lives with dementia and has no surviving family, administration officer Tracey Crichton felt compelled to help.
She put a call out to the local kindy to find an adopted family for Eric and it didn’t take long for volunteers to come forward.
The family of five-year-old Finley, who gave Eric the hug that started it all, was the first to ‘adopt’ Eric as his granddad.
“Finley, his sister and his mum came in to visit Eric just before Christmas and they gave Eric a framed photo from the last visit,” says Tracey.
“Eric was just so happy and he loved his Christmas present,” says Tracey. “He told me he was very spoilt and he got all emotional again.”
Amazingly, the normally quiet Eric remembered Finley when he saw him.
“He always remembers Finley and he really enjoys spending time with him,” she says. “He (Eric) was talking a lot more and was very happy.”
It’s not just Eric who benefits from these visits, the children enjoy it too.
“I think Finley just sees how happy it makes Eric, his face lights up and it makes him feel pretty special,” says Tracey.
“Eric’s joy is obvious when he sees the children coming for a visit, because he knows they are coming to see him.”
Finley starts school this year but his family has committed to keep in touch and be a part of Eric’s life.
“Finley and his sister feel really comfortable with Eric and their parents think it’s great for them to spend time with older residents,” she says.
“I think it’s good for those who don’t have grandparents or if their grandparents are overseas,” says Tracey. “Kids can really see a difference in how a person’s mood lifts when they visit, and they enjoy the fact that they’ve made them happy.”
For Tracey, it’s been inspiring seeing the impact children have on the lives of those living in aged care.
“It makes my job even more worthwhile when you see the reactions of residents like Eric,” she says. “I could really see a complete change in the residents - it was just wonderful.”
“It’s just proved to me how much difference children and animals do make to people’s behaviour.”
These visits have become an official part of life at Bupa Aged Care Edithvale
. Children from the local kindergarten will come every few weeks, and soon kids from a local crèche will be popping in to see residents too.
“I would encourage anyone thinking about using a similar program to pop in for a visit and see the difference children have in the lives of those with dementia,” says Tracey. “Every care home should be doing something like this.”