On a winter day in 2014, Romina Oliverio noticed that an impeccably dressed woman, who was once a former pianist, needed guidance finding a seat near a stereo playing classical music.
Oliverio was volunteering for an arts-based program designed to engage dementia patients at the Dotsa Bitove Wellness Academy in Toronto.
Although she had learned about dementia through textbooks and workshops, she had never seen anyone with the disease. But after that day, she knew it wouldn’t be her last.
“To go from reading about the condition to meeting someone with dementia for the first time is sobering,” she says. “But once you spend time with them, you quickly realize the kernel of the person very much remains.”
Oliverio, a young woman with an old soul and gentle demeanor, says this was an eye-opening experience. Observing the woman, along with communicating with caregivers worried over the one-size-fits-all approach to treating dementia patients, prompted her to form a person-centred dementia consulting business.
Patient-centred care is the latest trend in the health care world. The epitome of such care involves treating the patient as a whole person, not only according to their symptoms or behaviors, but also understanding their backgrounds and interests.
“Dementia is complex,” says Oliverio, her voice calm and reflective. “The progression can differ from one individual to another. It can also depend on the life they lived, their experiences.”
Individual consulting is slowly emerging in North America. In parts of Europe, including the United Kingdom, national dementia strategies are supported by their respective governments, which are aware of demographic shifts.
Oliverio hopes to enhance education by conducting workshops and contacting retirement homes, churches with congregations of aging people, or by using her Spanish to work with those who may have reverted back to their native language.