History of the Spark of Life Model of Care

Back in the early 1990s, people with advanced dementia were the forgotten and over looked. There was no expectation that people in the later stages of dementia could experience rehabilitation. The assumption was then that for people with advanced dementia, improvement was not possible.

Therapy in dementia care was only provided to people who had early dementia, where maintaining their skills was seen as the highest goal.
To facilitate a solution, in 1993 Jane Verity took the initiative to found Dementia Care International with the focus on humanising dementia care. Jane also identified that people with dementia were often set up for failure instead of success – due to lack of understanding of the needs of the person with dementia.

And then as now often challenging behaviours were treated symptomatically instead of going to the root cause of what caused the behaviour. To develop a solution that worked in practice, Jane drew on her previous experience from Scandinavia working in rehabilitation in the field of geriatric psychiatry.

She transferred this knowledge and skills to working with people with advanced dementia.

The therapeutic, rehabilitative ‘club’ program was first developed to enable people with advanced dementia to improve.

Today this program is known as the Spark of Life Rehabilitation Program and has proven to be applicable for people with all levels of dementia.
At the same time of developing the rehabilitative program, Jane saw the need for a new generation of specialised education that would give staff the skills to bring out the best in people with dementia.
This was the start of the unique Spark of Life Attitude and Practice Shifting Education.

The first step to achieve Jane’s vision was to develop an interactive, therapeutic social group program, specifically developed for people with advanced dementia. This program, known as the Spark of Life Club Program, which has been further developed to the Spark of Life Rehabilitative Program focused on facilitating an ideal environment and connection for people with dementia to experience rehabilitation and the recovery of lost abilities.

The program proved to achieve its aim with consistent results of improvements in language, cognitive and social abilities as well as providing so much joy to all involved.

In 2004, the program was internationally endorsed as recommended best practice in a collaborative study between the Wisconsin Bureau of Aging & Disability Resources and the Wisconsin Office of Quality Assurance.

Between 2000 and 2007, the Club Program was researched by Hilary Lee  for her Master’s in Science (Research) at Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia.

From the findings of the research, it was identified that the essence of the program needed to be expanded to all aspects of a person’s life so the benefits could be sustained by everyone in the care environment.

This became the start of a long and close working relationship between Jane and Hilary as they set out to further develop and expand the club program intervention principles into what was then named the Culture Enrichment Program, and has now evolved into the Spark of Life Quality Management System.

Three independent facilities took on to implement this Quality Management System, one in Western Australia, one in Queensland, Australia and one in New Zealand. The results of implementing this entire quality management system demonstrated that not only was the potential brought forth in residents and clients but in the staff members. There was also a total transformation of the culture.

In July 2009, Dementia Care Australia was honoured with the international IAHSA Excellence in Ageing Services Award given by IASHA representing 30 countries for the providing an innovative whole system (Quality Management System) to rehabilitation in dementia.

From the award an international demand grew for a sustainable model that would enable the Spark of Life Quality Management System to be implemented in other countries and cultures. This resulted in the development of the 3-week Spark of Life International Master Leadership Program. This program educates and certifies pioneering leaders from around the world to become Spark of Life Master Practitioners, equipping them with the tools and strategy to implement the complete Spark of Life Model of Care to take their organisation on the journey to become a Spark of Life Centre of Excellence.

There are Spark of Life Master Practitioners in 12 countries on 5 continents implementing the Spark of Life Whole System.

The Spark of Life Model of Care is now also taking root in many other fields of human endeavour such as palliative care, education and trauma recovery.