He Panui


World first for Mercy Parklands


Helen Delmonte and Ann Coughlan with the Spark of Life Centre of Excellence Award

Waiatarua Mercy Parklands, the Ellerslie-based aged-care facility, has been named as a Centre of Excellence for Spark of Life, the specialised programme it has introduced over the past five years for its 97 residents, most of them requiring hospital care.

A plaque confirming the status, a world-first, was presented at a ceremony on Friday 14 February by Australian Jane Verity, the founder of Spark of Life and currently CEO of Dementia Care Australia.

Spark of Life is a strengths-based programme which enables staff to relate to people with dementia in positive and creative ways, kindling within them a spark of interest and independence which has often become hidden and overlooked.

Spark of Life caught the attention of Mercy Parklands CEO Ann Coughlan at a healthcare conference some years ago. Since then the programme has been promoted at Mercy Parklands by the facility’s senior OT and manager of its Allied Health team, Helen Delmonte, who has graduated from special training in Australia as a Spark of Life master practitioner.

She acknowledges the support she has received from the management and board of Mercy Parklands since Spark of Life began there in 2009, and from work colleagues in a wide range of fields, many of whom have received training on site and are now torchbearers for the programme.

The decision to name Mercy Parklands as a Centre of Excellence has been based on documented evidence, pointing to the difference which Spark of Life practices have made to residents at the facility and their families. Gains include a huge reduction in the number of falls, which can often lead to long-term disability for older people, as well as a significant drop in the number of challenging incidents among residents for staff to deal with.

The Spark of Life philosophy has also prompted a complete restructuring of one of Mercy Parklands’ wings, providing a more homely atmosphere for its 17 residents, all of whom live with pronounced aspects of dementia. The change has been achieved without needing to turn the wing into a secure area or with significant increases in medication or other forms of restraint.

“The residents in Wing 2 feel much more strongly that this space is their home,” says Helen Delmonte. “The programme which operates there gives them more scope to contribute to daily living, able to help sometimes by cooking their favourite recipe, or be involved in some aspect of life they had forgotten all about.”

The Centre of Excellence plaque was received by Mercy Parklands CEO, Ann Coughlan. “We’re honoured and delighted to receive this plaque, because we have seen how well Spark of Life fits with our Mercy core values.

“Our mission is to enhance human living, through Mercy’s compassion and skills. The Spark of Life approach has helped all our staff to do this better, in ways that our residents’ families have been quick to recognise and appreciate.”

Spark of Life Torchbearers at Waiatarua Mercy Parklands