Loosely translated Mānawatia Pakeketanga means ‘celebrating the elderly’ – and it’s the fitting name of a new programme to support whānau living with dementia (mate wareware) in rural Northland.
The pilot has been developed and delivered by the Frank and Judy Solomon with support from Alzheimers Northland.
It is now into its last week and the mid-northern Kaeo community appreciate the support that has been provided so far.
This is the first support group programme in the region which is delivered by and for Māori (although not exclusively for Māori) and targets many of the challenges faced by whānau living with mate wareware who live rurally.
The sessions for kaiāwhina (carers) and pakeke (person with dementia) are run with both participants together offering support and respite for both parties – and eliminating the need to spend extra hours driving to separate support groups.
Alzheimer’s Northland General Manager Trudi Bridges says the programme addresses some of the challenges the region faces, particularly in terms of accessibility.
A high proportion of the Northland population is Māori and often experiences inequities in the current health system. Many whānau Alzheimers Northland supports live rurally and face additional costs to travel to support services. Often, dropping off and picking up a whānau member at a day programme can involve several hours of driving from home to town and back again.
The sessions are three hours long and are built around whanaungatanga (getting to know each other) incorporating waiata (song), karakia (incantations) and kai (food).
Traditional activities such as Poi were used in the latest session, which many pakeke enjoyed and commented they hadn’t used poi since they were children. Games and puzzles are also popular and participants explored ways to keep the brain engaged, breathing exercises and korero about their journeys.
“Most people came away with a real feeling of wairua (soul) in the room, of belonging, compassion and support. And just the feeling of love and aroha.”
“They really expressed how they felt. A couple of people said they feel heard, and they feel they’ve got a connection now in the community to support their mate wareware journey.”
Judy and Frank Solomon, and their daughter Kiri, facilitated the sessions with Alzheimers Northland Volunteer Maree Kilkoly and Community Advisor Phillipa Cooper.
The Solomon whānau have whānau in Northland, and were keen to get the pilot up and running in the region following the recent success of a pilot they ran in Manurewa, Auckland.
Trudi said this was an important opportunity to provide the support that meets a community need, and for Alzheimers Northland to be able to offer support with their experience and knowledge of mate wareware.
Although it’s early days, Trudi is hopeful the programme will continue in the community in some form with a view to expand into other areas of Northland.
If you, or anyone you know needs more support, reach out to your local Alzheimers or dementia mate wareware organisation for more support