The cards that get people really talking

From being very anxious and seeking the company of people walking past her room, to contentedly sitting with a cuppa and leafing through magazines.

That’s the change that resulted for a resident after doing a Do Be Feel card session with the Lifestyle Team when she came in for respite care to Uniting AgeWell’s Kings Meadows Community, Aldersgate recently. And simply providing her with the magazines and a cuppa proved to be the solution to her needs.

So, what are these Do Be Feel Cards being used across Uniting AgeWell’s aged care facilities, why are they needed and how do they work?

The 42 cards are divided into three categories – Do, Be and Feel - which collectively depict a range of interests or hobbies, personality traits and emotions. The idea is to progress through them, dealing with emotions last, allowing the person to build up more gently to this sensitive area. This encourages the person to think about how they are feeling and also to open up a conversation to discuss how they are tracking. And this in turn opens up avenues for staff to look at ways to further support older people if needed.

The Do Be Feel cards stem from a collaboration between Swinburne University and Uniting AgeWell, for a Masters of Design student co-design project. Across ten weeks, the students visited a Victorian Uniting AgeWell aged care facility, brought in their ideas and project prototypes and asked residents for their feedback. Based on this feedback they then produced “toolkits” to get people talking about their interests and goals.

Uniting AgeWell’s Director Strategy and Innovation, Nina Bowes, says, “The cards are a gentle non-confrontational way to open up conversations with residents and customers. It’s a practical way for staff to get customers talking about their interests, goals, aspirations and preferences.”

Lifestyle teams across the facilities attended an introductory session put on by Teresa Soderlund, Projects Coordinator, Research and Innovation, who explained how the cards work.

Lifestyle Manager Sharon Levey says there is a lot of positive feedback on the cards. “If they carry on proving so useful, we will consider having them printed in Braille,” she says.

Sharon says the cards are particularly useful to new residents, who may be a bit more reserved and have not yet had the opportunity to build up rapport with staff and other residents. Also the cards are proving useful for residents for whom English is a second language and who may struggle to express their emotions in English.

The cards also help those with cognitive challenges and find it difficult to verbalise their feelings. “Sadly many with advanced dementia lose the ability to speak and words become a blurred jumble. The cards help guide an older person in the direction they want, to look at the pictorially-depicted emotions and we can see which ones they identify with in that moment.”

The cards themselves don’t offer solutions – they y flag how the older person is feeling, which in turn triggers the call for appropriate action by staff.

Already the cards are opening meaningful conversations:

  • Uniting AgeWell Rosetta Community Strathglen Lifestyle Coordinator Sarah Mayor says Lifestyle Assistants use the cards as part of weekly resident sessions, with a one-on-one at least twice a month. She says they are a great way to start meaningful conversation.
  • Kalkee Community Murray Lifestyle Coordinator Fiona Allchin used the cards as part of an on-site intergenerational activity with local high school students. Fiona says the cards were a great way to break down barriers, and there was some “really lovely engagement and stories.”
  • Kings Meadows Community Lifestyle Assistant Tanya Horner says
    • the cards helped a resident with a speech impediment to divulge his passion about gardening. “We learned that he was keen to plant and look after veggies – but absolutely not flowers!”
    • another resident living with dementia who often struggles to find the right words, was able to share stories about Papua New Guinea thanks to the cards.
Learn more about how we support Mental Health and Wellbeing

Our Mental Health and Wellbeing Framework

Uniting AgeWell's Mental Health and Wellbeing Framework is a reflection of our commitment to enabling communities to age well and individuals to live to their potential.

We beleive all elements of mental health and wellbeing are of equal importance and structure our assesment, care planning and services to meet the unique needs of each individual.

In seeking to advance the principle of person-centred care for older people, our Framework outlines the approach and measures we will take to support the mental health and wellbeing of our customers and staff.

Read our Mental Health and Wellbeing Framework

Mental Health Framework Panel