A New Tool for Professional Dementia Caregivers

Brick By Brick Bonding offers many benefits for dementia care professionals and is easy to implement even in the middle of a tough shift.
Brick By Brick Bonding and Professional Caregivers
Here is a professional caregiver building with her caree.

By Laura Herman, Dementia Care Professional

“Oh that’s a tough job,” people say. “It takes a special person to work with dementia.” 

They’re right. 

Caregiving for people with dementia is uniquely rewarding and challenging. It can be physically and emotionally taxing. Some days it can take everything we have – and then more. But we know why we do it. It’s for those moments of connection. That smile. The flicker of recognition. That moment when we discover what works for that extra-challenging caree and all of a sudden they cooperate. They let us in, reward us with their trust, and give us the best they have in that twinkle in time.

These moments can be few and far between, especially when working with too little time, energy, and support. But we can make choices that smooth the road ahead, enhance our relationships, and increase moments of joy and fulfillment for our carees – and for ourselves.

What is Brick By Brick Bonding?

A form of art therapy that uses LEGO Duplo bricks and pieces as the medium, Brick By Brick Bonding is a method of connection, rapport-building, and stress relief developed by Patty Sherin for people living with any stage of dementia and their care partners. 

A Brick By Brick Bonding session can be tailored to any situation when you decide to set aside some time to explore LEGO bricks and pieces together, express yourselves creatively, focus on joy, and forget, even for the briefest of moments, about the long to-do list on your tail.

In order for a Brick By Brick Bonding session to be successful, you must choose to protect the time as a sacred oasis away from the stresses and “shoulds” of your shift or everyday life. 

For the duration of the session, you practice mindful awareness, meaning:

  • You choose to be fully present
  • You release any expectations
  • You decide to delight in the present
  • You celebrate the successes where they are
  • You follow your caree’s lead and go with their flow 

When you do this for an hour a week, or a few minutes a day, you’ll notice your body, mind, and soul starting to relax. You’ll receive a return on your investment of time and energy a thousandfold. (That stat isn’t backed by research, but it must be in that ballpark! It’s surprisingly profound!) 

Therapeutic Activities for Our Carees – and Ourselves

You may be familiar with research-backed therapeutic approaches to dementia care, such as reminiscence therapy, art therapy, and tactile or sensory stimulation. You may have even heard about LEGO-Based therapy for dementia, a movement that has been gaining attention and traction rapidly in recent years.

But did you realize how easy it can be for you to implement as a direct caregiver, life enrichment professional, or support staff member? And did you know just how beneficial it can be to do so – not only for your caree but also for yourself?

Brick By Brick Bonding, the LEGO-Based method of connection, can easily be implemented in professional settings with very little investment of time or money. Rather, you deliberately decide to invest your full attention for a few minutes out of the busy day. 

What are the Benefits of Brick By Brick Bonding?

Depending on how you do it, Brick By Brick Bonding can combine elements of art therapy, reminiscence therapy, intergenerational activity, emotional expression, creativity, choice, and control to create a uniquely therapeutic and engaging experience for those with dementia. 

  • Participants are given the opportunity to engage in a tactile and sensory experience, allowing them to connect with their creative side and express themselves in a safe and supportive environment.
  • Brick By Brick Bonding provides an opportunity for reminiscence therapy, which involves discussing past experiences and memories, providing a sense of validation and connection to the past. 
  • Participants can connect with others in an intergenerational setting, which has been shown to provide numerous benefits, such as reducing social isolation and promoting a sense of community.
  • Brick By Brick Bonding provides valuable opportunities for choice and control, as participants are able to choose the colors, shapes, and patterns of the bricks they use, giving them a sense of agency in the activity. This can be especially empowering for those with dementia, who may often feel a loss of control due to their condition. 

Overall, Brick By Brick Bonding is an excellent therapeutic activity that provides numerous benefits for those with dementia, including promoting emotional expression, creativity, and a sense of community, while also providing opportunities for reminiscence therapy and intergenerational activities.

How to Implement Brick By Brick Bonding at Work on a Large or Small Scale

A Brick By Brick Bonding session can be customized to fit any situation. Whatever your role, there’s almost certainly a way to make it work if you look for it. Here are a few examples.

Life Enrichment Professionals

As a life enrichment professional, you may decide to include Brick By Brick Bonding group sessions on the weekly calendar in a 45-60 minute session. 

  • Invite the staff to participate as well (even if only for just a few minutes at a time) so they can relax, recharge, and enhance their relationships with the residents.
  • Invite staff and resident family members to bring their children. The benefits of intergenerational activity are well-documented – and it’s incredibly fun!

Direct Care Staff

You may not have the option to run a full group session during your scheduled shift, but you still have plenty of opportunity for Brick By Brick Bonding.

  • Carry a few LEGO Duplo bricks and Minifigures in your pocket and break them out for mini-sessions with your caree on the fly.
    • When you need an instant distraction or redirection for a resident who
      • Is getting upset with another resident
      • Is going somewhere you would rather they didn’t
      • Would be more cooperative during care if their attention was diverted from the task at hand
  • Ask your administrator if you can come in an hour early or stay an hour late to facilitate a group Brick By Brick Bonding session.
    • Remind them that by promoting opportunities for staff and residents to interact in different ways, you’re broadening and strengthening their trust and relationships with one another, which leads to better cooperation and rapport, less anxiety and agitation, and better satisfaction all around.

Learn More About Brick By Brick Bonding

If you’d like to learn more about Brick By Brick Bonding please reach out! 

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