For over four years Sr. Benedicte Stroem, a Norwegian member of the Congregation of St. Joseph of Cluny, has been carrying out research based on the Sonas Programme, which was devised by Sr Mary Threadgold RSC in 1990. Sr. Benedicte was formerly Director of Nursing at St. Joseph’s Nursing Home in Chapelizod, Dublin.
The research project was entitled ‘Sensory Stimulation for People with Dementia – the Effect of the Sonas Programme on Communication.’ This involved 120 residents of Nursing Homes who had been diagnosed with dementia. Staff acting as facilitators were offered training by Sonas apc. The residents in these homes were then divided into three random groups, a Sonas group, a control group (not offered a specific intervention) and a reading group.
At the end of 24 weeks of twice weekly sessions, results were collated and analysed. These showed specific areas of improvement in communication within the Sonas group and especially for those with severe dementia. An unexpected benefit which emerged was the value of the communication assessment devised to measure the benefits of the Sonas Programme. This was validated by the researcher on the advice of her supervisors and has been named the TCT which stands for the Threadgold Communication Tool. The TCT specifically measures expressive communication behaviour. Permission has now been requested by VID Specialized University in Oslo to use this as a stand alone assessment in many nursing homes in Norway so that adaptations can be suggested for its future use.
On the 20th September 2017 Sr. Benedicte Stroem defended her thesis publicly and two representatives of Sonas apc, Noreen Keane and Sr Mary Threadgold, were present. The defence lasted three hours and was entirely in Norwegian. Once her thesis was accepted they took part in a celebration which started with a Lutheran prayer service followed by a celebration meal.
Before returning to Ireland some of the Irish party stayed a further two days to do some sight-seeing, which included the Kon Tiki, Polar Explorers and Nobel centres. They were also invited to attend ‘The Magic Flute’ in the Oslo Opera House, which was a wonderful experience.