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This week I have the great pleasure of having Hilary Lee the President of the Spark of Life Program providing a guest post. I first met Hilary and her associate Jane Verity in 2011. These two remarkable ladies have developed a program that has the potential to stand how we currently care for people living with dementia on it’s head.
But don’t just take my word for it – the proof comes from those families who have experienced what the Spark of Life provides.

My name is Hilary Lee and I work with Dementia Care Australia, which has developed the internationally awarded Australian philosophy Spark of Life, that applies epigenetics and quantum physics to the care of people with dementia with profound results.

So, what is Spark of Life? Spark of Life represents the essence of what gives and sustains life. The ‘Spark” comes from our inner source as a human being. It is what gives us the will and purpose to live. For people with dementia and their families Spark of Life is about restoring hope, joy and zest for life. It enables people with dementia to improve and live life to the fullest potential in a way that up until now has not been thought possible.

I’d love to share a personal story with you to illustrate this from the year 2000. I was working as an occupational therapist with people with dementia in an isolated nursing home outside Perth. The residents there had significant behaviour problems, and many were highly medicated as the staff had exhausted their ideas of how to manage these behaviours. I took 2 of my therapy assistants with me on a 1 day course to learn about the Spark of Life Club Program, run by Jane Verity, the occupational and family therapist who developed it. We came back very inspired and set about implementing this program 7 days a week to involve as many residents as possible. We noticed changes almost immediately, improvements in behaviour, social skills and language, to a point where many could come off the medications that were used to sedate or calm them. The unexpected results had a wonderful impact on the staff as well, who got so much joy and satisfaction seeing that what they did in their job could make real and lasting improvements in their residents, these people whom society had given up on. This significant outcome was a turning point in my life, and led to me choosing to research the approach, which I did over the next 7 years, first as a pilot study, and then through Curtin University of Technology as a Masters in Science.

Spark of Life draws on new research in sciences such as quantum physics, epigenetics and neuroscience, and these explain how it is possible for people with dementia to improve.
So, for example, quantum physics is about the quality of the energy we bring to an interaction and Spark of Life is about the practical details of bringing an energy that ignites the spark.
Epigenetics is the new science of how outside influences, including our thoughts control our genes. They can literally switch on and off positive and negative biological responses in our bodies. Spark of Life fits the paradigm of an epigenetic medicine as it infuses beliefs and behaviours that are conducive to positive health.
Spark of Life was internationally awarded in 2009 because the philosophy operates in a new paradigm that enables rehabiltiation and rementia in dementia care. Rementia is when people with dementia improve in particular because the social and emotional environment around them has become more supportive.

If you want to find out more about this unique approach, there is a lot of practical information and guidance on the website, including a library of articles, and forum to ask questions and footage of what is possible with Spark of Life. You can also find out about courses we are running  and there are 2 certified Spark of Life courses soon here in Perth in November 2012.

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.


  • Paul Bailey says:

    There is so much ineffective hand-wringing in the dementia field. Your process is so appropriate not only to dementia care but to life at large. If more suffers of dementia were taken along this care trail there would be fewer walking confused and sullen along the corridors of care (less) institutions. Your time is coming. Great work.

    • solutions says:

      Hello Paul, I think you are spot on. Your comment about the ineffective hand wringing is so true. As Henry Ford is credited with saying “If you think you can, you’re right, if you think you can’t you’re right” Choosing to make an effective difference is what sets this program apart.

  • Steve Gates says:

    Your results sound good – not sure I understand all the technical terms but certainly the ‘power of positive thinking ‘ is a good start as is engaging people with their community/surrounds. From what I’ve learned from a couple of sources (ABC Catalyst I seem to remember??, as well as a friend’s father recently), just removing people from a multitude of drugs can improve the situation dramatically because the interactions between most drugs are not understood.
    All the best with it

    • solutions says:

      Thanks Steve, I think the positive approach is a change in expectation. If we expect a person with dementia to be withdrawn and unable to engage then that is what we will see. If the assumption instead is that – they may have dementia which affects their memory, however there are so many other facets of their life which can still be tapped in to. It changes our perspective, and with a different outcome.

  • Laura Panarello says:

    The Spark of Life philosophy works and although understanding the power and efficacy of all of the new sciences it is founded on can be difficult, I can honestly say that it quantifies and magnifies the meaning of unconditional love towards another human being! In my eyes it compliments all religions that view ‘mankind’ as being created to love and serve for the good of all humanity. The Spark of Life gives clear steps on how one can attain and promote physical, emotional, cognitive ‘betterment’ not only with people with dementia but with ALL people.

    • Hilary Lee says:

      Thank you Laura for your insight as a Spark of Life Master Practitioner. And what you have said is so true. We know the pholosphy has universal principles that speak to people from diverse faiths and cultures, and this is why it is being adopted internationally, already iwith 30 Master Practitioners n 5 countries. Keep up your important Spark of Life work with your clients with dementia from so many different cultures

  • Henrietta Rowsell says:

    As an instrumental teacher working in the UK much of this ties in with the Music for Life interactive music project run jointly by the charity Dementia UK and London’s Wigmore Hall. Surely this is what it is all about – tapping into the part of the brain that isn’t broken? In the UK the standard of proper, specialist care for dementia sufferers remains poor….Hilary Lee, Great Britain needs you!! Great article. HR.

    • Hilary Lee says:

      Thank you Henrietta so much for your encouragement and invitation to the UK. And you have made a very relavent observation- Spark of Life is uniquely suportive as a practical method of applying the creative arts in dementia care. I have trialled it myself over several years working as an occupational therapist having success with the visual arts, social dancing as well as music and have since edited a book that may be of interest to readers called Creative Approaches in Dementia Care from MacMillan Publishing with contributions from international experts in dementia and the creative arts.

  • Anita Law says:

    This is all great news!Thankfully my parents never had to go into a Home, but my mother-in-law is in one here in Italy, where I live.I’m certain that she would benefit from this kind of therapy, enabling her to avoid some unnecessary medication. Let’s hope the news spreads, and fast!

  • Jennifer Mott says:

    The Spark of Life philosophy has made such an inspirational change on the lives of myself and my two sisters. As full -time carers of our 90 year old mother with dementia, we were feeling run down and a sense of hopelessness. After attending a one day course with Jane Verity and Hilary Lee (Dementia Care Australia) we have learnt how to communicate effectively, therefore generating positive energy and a positive outlook on everything we do. Never taking things for granted and remembering to ask ourselves about the insignificant things “Does it really matter”. Thank you so much Jane and Hilary for your untiring dedication in spreading the Spark of Life Philosophy.

  • Cyrilla Rowsell says:

    Well done, Hilary!
    You are doing WONDERFUL work here 🙂 Like my sister, I am a music educator and am very interested in the healing and stimulating power of music.
    Keep up the good work!

  • Marilyn Swenson says:

    Visiting Angels is indeed a blessing. I needed someone to care for my mom who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. She suffers from Alzheimer’s and I live in England. I was able to choose the right caregiver for my Mom. The person was experienced and had excellent credentials. I have peace of mind knowing that Mom is in capable hands.

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