Compassionate Care for Individuals with Dementia
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Nearly 7 million Americans are living with dementia. The number is expected to double by 2040 as the 65+ population continues to increase.
Dementia is a syndrome — a group of symptoms — that has a number of causes. Symptoms include difficulties with memory, language, problem-solving, and other cognitive skills which affect the ability to perform everyday activities. These difficulties occur because nerve cells in parts of the brain involved in cognitive function have been damaged or destroyed.
“Age-related memory loss is common. If you lose things from time to time, miss a monthly payment, or forget what day it is and remember it later, those may not necessarily be warning signs of dementia,” says Maureen Braen, CDP, CPXP, Christian Health’s (CHCC) Care Experience Coordinator and frequent Speakers Bureau presenter on “The Aging Brain.” “When loss of memory and other cognitive abilities interferes with daily life, however, following up with your physician is important to determine if a dementia-related diagnosis may be the cause.”
As the number of individuals living with dementia has increased, so, too, have CHCC’s programs, services, and residence options for individuals living with memory impairment and those who love them. The roster includes three residences and an inpatient behavioral hospital. Caregivers are supported through virtual support groups and, when beneficial, professional telehealth therapy through LiveWell Counseling. All are guided by our Person- and Family-centered Care model.
One way that the care experience is enhanced is through ongoing training of and education for the health-care team. CARES Dementia Basics, for example, examines changes in thinking skills as dementia progresses, how those changes impact behavior, understanding behavior as a form of communication, and caring for any individual in any situation at any stage in dementia decline.
“Training and education, even about familiar topics, are always helpful as a review and to solidify what we already know,” says Anne Nieglos, Heritage Manor Nursing Home/Southgate Activity Coordinator. “The day after I finished the behavior module of CARES, an Activity team member called me from a patio to ask for assistance escorting a resident who did not want to come inside. I did my best ‘positive physical approach.’ I smiled, moved toward her from the side, extended my hand, and asked how she was. We talked about why she wanted to stay outside. I did some ‘connecting, assessing, and responding.’ Eventually, she agreed to come inside. I was able to put the CARES principles into practice right away.”
Says Carmen Edwards, CNA, Heritage Manor, “Training is useful and helps me to remove the dementia piece and see our residents for the people who they are. It’s important to treat them how they want to be treated by understanding what is important to them.”