How Heritage Epping’s Memory Support Unit is transforming dementia residents’ lives

Heritage Epping’s Memory Support Unit (MSU) and Laughter Care program are helping dementia residents like Ursula to transform their lives through purpose, happiness and confidence, while strengthening their relationships with others.

Noticeable changes since moving into the MSU

Ursula, 91, was the first resident at Heritage Epping to move into the MSU when it opened in December last year (having originally entered the home in early 2020). Even in this short space of time, her sense of confidence and purpose have greatly improved. Ursula’s transformation has been noted by her daughter Linda and by carers and management alike. They agree that the MSU and Laughter Care program are combining well, helping Ursula to live more harmoniously and happily in the MSU community.

How Laughter Care is helping dementia residents like Ursula

Moving from mainstream care into a small community of only 14 residents (six moved in initially), Ursula has benefited from the MSU’s intimate, comfortable space. This environment has helped her relax and trust in new forms of care therapy including Laughter Care.

Each Wednesday, Laughter Care Specialist Penny visits Ursula (usually greeting her in German) and other Heritage Epping residents. Penny connects through humour, story, and song. It’s a fluid, ongoing process that helps improve residents’ well-being, fostering connection and trust, happy reminiscence, and a sense of calm and security.

The Laughter Care program, run by The Humour Foundation, is backed by international research[1] showing that agitation levels of dementia residents decreased through humour therapy to the same extent as using anti-psychotic drugs, but without the side effects.

A dementia-friendly care model

Ursula and other residents in the Heritage Epping MSU benefit from its tailored, dementia-friendly model. As a pragmatic person who likes to stay busy, Ursula enjoys everyday activities like sorting tea-towels, polishing cutlery, and watering plants. She also enjoys playing on the Tovertafel (‘magic table’ in Dutch) which stimulates physical and social activities, creates a shared experience, and enhances well-being.

“Mum has more dignity and purpose now,” Linda says. “The smaller community has contributed to her being less agitated and more centred since the Laughter Care program started last December, especially since she came into the MSU.”

“Mum has more dignity and purpose now” – Linda

Attentive, tailored dementia care at Heritage Epping

Julie, who delivers the Lifestyle program at Heritage Epping, has been adept in dealing with Ursula’s needs – including helping her get the most from Laughter Care. “I’m pleased we’ve been able to break down the walls with Ursula,” Julie says. “Penny and I have built a solid foundation of trust, and this has helped Ursula’s trust in other residents and in herself. She really looks forward to Penny’s visits each week.”

Kate Kaur, Clinical Care Manager at Heritage Epping, believes the MSU and its high-dementia care model is complementary with the Laughter Care program: “We’re seeing dementia residents like Ursula benefit from humour therapy. Being in a the more intimate environment of the MSU provides a greater sense of connection with other residents, staff, and loved ones.”

Having watched her mother live with dementia for nine years, Linda is glad that Ursula is calmer, happier and more engaged, which has strengthened their relationship. Linda places trust in the staff at Heritage Epping, particularly carers like Julie and Penny who have fostered a strong connection with Ursula. “While it’s been challenging at times,” Linda says, “I’m so happy to see Mum’s life transformed since she came into the MSU.”

“I’m so happy to see Mum’s life transformed since she came into the MSU” – Linda

Meeting the needs of loved ones with dementia

Many families struggle to meet the needs of a loved one living with dementia. At Heritage Care, we provide dementia-friendly care in all homes with five offering high-dementia care in our Memory Support Units:

  • Heritage Epping, Heritage Gardens, and Watergardens in Victoria.
  • Heritage Illawong and Heritage Queanbeyan in New South Wales.

Learn more about dementia at Heritage Care

Download the Heritage Epping MSU brochure

Learn more about Laughter Care at Heritage Care


[1] Source: BMJ Open, ‘The Sydney Multisite Intervention of Laughter Bosses and ElderClowns (SMILE) study: cluster randomized trial of humour therapy in nursing homes