I’ve left the day centre and I’m now next door at the Katarai Group Home in the Setagaya area of Tokyo. People with dementia live together in this group home – each with their own individual rooms. The group home is split into 2 units (with 9 people with dementia living in each unit). Mr Yuta Ichikawa, who has a lead role in the group home, explains that there are day centres attached to the Unit so many people attend the day centre first and as their dementia advances they then live in the group home. This means that they are familiar with the environment and the people. As I have a guided tour of the facility, it is no wonder there is a 2 year waiting list.
The building is modern with lots of glass and light which creates a calm and airy space. There is a therapy area where people can have excercise and other therapies, an open plan sitting, dining and kitchen area where residents can cook, dine and socialise together and undertake their own hobbies or participate in group activities. An outdoor area enables people to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine. I am advised that people in the group home often go out for tea, go shopping and to the park, enabling people to remain very much part of the community. Mr Ichikawa explains that strong relationships with families is key and that families can come and go as they please 24 hours per day. Families are invited to participate in outings and activites. They recently had a visit to the sky tree in Tokyo (the world’s tallest tower).
Today I’m invited along with my colleagues from the Health Ministry and Dementia Care Research and Training Centre to join the music therapy session. I am made to feel at home and caught off guard with emotion as the group sing a Robert Burns song (comin’ thro the rhy) for me in Japanese. People are singing with such joy and animation and I feel very privileged to share this time with them.
Afterwards I share with Mr Ichikawa the work of Play List for Life in Scotland http://www.playlistforlife.org.uk. He likes the concept in providing an additional way of supporting people in this group home through music, particularly for those who do not want to or are unable to join the group activities.
As we say our goodbyes I am struck by how homely this facility is and how much flexibility there is for people to do what matters to them, especially remaining connected to their local community, their friends, neighbours and of course their family. The Robert Burns song and the sense of community connection stays with me as we leave. I have been made to feel so at home here.
Thank you to Ms Yumi Shindo for organising and accompanying me on this fascinating visit.