World First Spark of Life Centre of Excellence - The Mercy Parklands Story Print E-mail

On 14th February 2014, Mercy Parklands, Auckland New Zealand was officially acknowledged as the world’s first Spark of Life Centre of Excellence.


In 2009, the Mercy Parklands leadership team developed a Quality Project Plan to enhance and enrich the lives of their residents with dementia. Part of this plan was to take on Dementia Care Australia’s Spark of Life Philosophy as a way of bringing in best practice emotional and compassionate care to their residents.

Their plan was to involve and educate all levels of staff within their organisation. Their goals were to facilitate enriched interaction with their residents, enable those with dementia to improve, to dissolve challenging behaviours and reduce falls.

This project led to their Allied Health Coordinator Helen Delmonte being funded and supported to join international pioneers at the inaugural Spark of Life International Master Practitioner Course held in Perth, March 2010.

The Spark of Life Culture Enrichment Program

In 2009, Spark of Life received the International Excellence in Ageing Services Award from IAHSA (International Association of Homes and Services for the Ageing), representing 30 countries.

The award was presented at the IAHSA conference in London and was given in recognition for this optimistic whole systems approach that enables rehabilitation and rementia.  At the ceremony, Jane Verity, Founder and CEO of Dementia Care Australia and Spark of Life, and Hilary Lee, President of Spark of Life, connected with leaders from many countries who confirmed there was a global need for education on the Spark of Life Philosophy. This led to the development of the Spark of Life International Master Practitioner Course, which educates leaders from around the world and gives them the knowledge, skills and tools they need to take the Culture Enrichment Program back to their organisations and guide their teams on the journey to become a Spark of Life Centre of Excellence.

Mercy Parklands Pioneering the Implementation of Spark of Life

Between 2010 and 2014, Helen Delmonte pioneered the implementation of the Spark of Life Culture Enrichment Program through educating all levels of staff at Mercy Parklands. This culture enrichment involved setting up and running a special therapeutic group program called the Spark of Life Club Program, which is specifically designed to bring out dormant abilities in people with dementia.

Helen also educated all  staff in Spark of Life communication techniques and how to understand and dissolve challenging behaviour. The results speak for themselves with a 34.3% decrease in behavioural incidents since 2009. In addition, over the last two years Mercy Parklands have been able to retain all residents with challenging behaviours including those who in the past would have needed to transfer to secure dementia facilities. Also, in the dementia specific area (non-secure) there has been no significant behaviour incidents for the last 12 months. 

Helen also introduced the key principles of Spark of Life as the framework for their Falls Prevention Program and achieved remarkable results in this area with an overall percentage decrease of 45.05% since implementation.

Their high standard in this area led to Mercy Parklands receiving an Excellence Achievement award for their Falls Prevention Program in their Accreditation. They were also chosen by the Health Quality and Safety Commission in New Zealand to represent aged care in an educational video on falls prevention for the National Patient Safety Campaign Launch.

Dementia Care Australia has developed a self-assessment process for organisations to demonstrate they have achieved the requirements for a Spark of Life Centre of Excellence. This self-assessment facilitates the opportunity for a valuable and continuous improvement process. Helen Delmonte piloted this self-assessment process that occurs throughout  implementation, evaluating outcomes for residents, staff and families. Mercy Parkland's results showed that they are providing an outstanding level of care and were worthy recipients of the status as the world's first Spark of Life Centre of Excellence.

Further Information on Master Practitioner Course and Outcomes

There are now 33 Spark of Life Master Practitioners in eight countries. The Spark of Life International Master Practitioner Course is held in Perth, Western Australia and the next course will be held 2nd to 21st November 2014.

Click here for more information on the Spark of Life International Master Course.

Dementia Care Australia offers a free monthly teleconference service for leaders to find out more about the Spark of Life International Master Practitioner Course. Click here to email us on This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it for teleconference details.

For leaders interested in learning more about the outcomes from Mercy Parklands, email us on This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it for a copy of the Summary Outcomes.

Some Personal Stories from Mercy Parklands

On the day of the official launch of Mercy Parklands as the world’s first Spark of Life Centre of Excellence, in their official speeches a number of people shared their personal reflections on what Spark of Life has meant to each of them and here are some extracts and further footage of their speeches.

Robin Warin, Family Member

‘As time went on, more and more staff were trained in the ways of the Spark of Life. This made a big difference to how Mum and the other residents here at Mercy Parklands were on a day to day basis. The love, the dignity, compassion, along with the Spark of Life Philosophy, shown to all residents here meant that they can live life to the fullest potential and be allowed to make choices for themselves, also giving them independence. Mum's personal health also improved from the time of Spark of Life's starting here. I put this down to the ability to communicate again and the trust she had with the people that were caring for her.’ I am proud my mother, Moira, is the poster girl for Spark of Life here at Mercy Parklands.


Julie Knott, Spark of Life Club Facilitator

‘The biggest change in a person, for me, was probably Dawn (names have been substituted to preserve privacy). Dawn was terribly angry. When I first met Dawn she was really hurt and felt unloved and abandoned. We brought her into the club and we worked really hard to gain her trust. We had to work very hard because she was really hurting inside and we did this and gradually we got through to her and watched her blossom like a flower. She began to trust us, and she began to love us and it was amazing to see. We've had lots of positive feedback from staff members, from family members, from visiting GPs, who all know that the Sunshine Club makes a difference, that the Spark of Life Approach is something that is absolutely amazing.’

Don Ingham, Resident at Mercy Parklands

Don wrote his own speech, which his wife Hope read on his behalf; ‘I owe the (Spark of Life) Men's Club a debt of gratitude for what it has meant for me and I look forward to our weekly meeting, for it gives me a sense of purpose and self-worth despite my infirmities… All these initiatives fill important gaps in our lives and the opportunity for us to feel we can still make a contribution in our community.’


Sister Sheryl James, RSM, Pastoral Care, Spark of Life Torchbearer

 ‘We have found that the Spark of Life program enhances our values as we carry out our mission working towards creating a caring, compassionate community. In fact I believe that the Spark of Life Approach is about our values and provides us a way to express them as we work to keep hope alive.’


Ann Coughlan, CEO Mercy Parklands

‘We've now been involved in the Spark of Life for about three and a half years. It has had a fantastic effect on our facility. We've seen a tremendous improvement in the quality of care, we've seen a decrease in falls, we've seen an improvement in behaviour and we've seen an improvement in our staff culture and our philosophy as well. I've seen staff who have been very quiet and very shy and who have grown into this experience and are developing really fantastic care.’

Helen Delmonte, Allied Health Manager, Spark of Life Master Practitioner

Helen summed up the essence of what Spark of Life means to an organisation: ‘For me the Spark of Life at Mercy Parklands means staff working together for the good of everybody, within a supportive environment, and seeing a sparkle in everyone's eyes.’





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