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Communication without words in dementia world

A team from Japan is visiting Malaysia to conduct free public workshops on the totsu-totsu dance


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By Cecilia Chan

For years, dementia has been hidden in the shadows in Malaysia as we know there are no specific policies or support socially and financially for people in Malaysian living with dementia and their loved ones.

Dementia continues to be one of the most misunderstood and stigmatised health conditions.
One of the main issues in dealing with dementia is communication, which is a vital part of human existence. We rely on the spoken word to develop and maintain connections with others.

People living with dementia will sometimes experience a breakdown in their verbal communication skills, and this can lead to social isolation. It is crucial that we develop other strategies to connect with people living with dementia so that they remain socially included.

In Japan, the totsu-totsu dance is one of the strategies used to connect with people living with dementia when words no longer can be used.

The totsu-totsu dance is based on the fundamentals of communication, including eye contact, sounds, shared attention and imitation. It is based on a profile of a person’s communication abilities and uses it to help the person with dementia remain connected to the social world.

A totsu-totsu dance project was conducted at a facility for older adults in Kyoto prefecture, as well as the facility staff members, and the local community reported positive outcomes and it mushroomed from then onwards.

This totsu-totsu dance was introduced to Malaysia in August 2022, and this was followed by online workshops conducted for people living with dementia and their care partners in Malaysia.

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The team from Japan was in Malaysia in late December last year to conduct workshops in Penang and Ipoh for the public as well as for those living with dementia and their care partners.

The team from Japan will be in Malaysia again to conduct a follow-up physical workshop on totsu-totsu dance in dementia care. The workshop will be conducted free and will take place at Taylor’s University on 1 August and at BSC Eldercare Centre in Penang on 3 and 4 August.

1 August – Taylor’s University

10am – noon – for people living with dementia and care partners

3pm – 5 pm – for the public

3 August – Bagan Specialist Centre eldercare centre

10am – noon – for people living with dementia and care partners

2pm – 4pm – for the public

4 August – Bagan Specialist Centre eldercare centre

10am – for people living with dementia and care partners

We hope that these events will be a launchpad to create awareness in Malaysia so we can think ‘outside the box’ in developing various strategies we can use to support our loved ones living with dementia so that they may continue to live life to the fullest.

This workshop will be a powerful catalyst for the creation of dementia-friendly communities, which is imperative for a culture change in dementia care.

For more information, please contact Dr Cecilia Chan at 013-4384388

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Wong Soak Koon
23 Jul 2023 2.28pm

Wonderful initiative. May it be of help both to those with dementia and their carers.

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