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Maximizing Comfort For Seniors With Dementia

Caregivers of seniors with dementia—whether family members, home health aides or caregivers in long-term care settings—are learning more about person-centered care, the model of care we use in the Memory Care Suite at Lester Senior Housing Community.

Person-centered care is just that—it centers on the person, putting what he or she wants or needs first rather than what might be convenient for staff or “the way we’ve always done it.” This approach provides a more comforting type of care—and environment—that is not ruled by strict schedules or rules but rather, by the resident’s needs or preferences at any given moment.

When caring for people with dementia, the emphasis is on valuing their personhood. That’s not a term most of us walk around saying every day but here is what that concept means:

  • Valuing and respecting persons with dementia
  • Treating people with dementia as individuals with unique needs
  • Seeing the world from their perspective, in order to understand the person’s behavior and what is being communicated, and validating the subjective experience that is being perceived as that individual’s reality
  • Creating a positive social environment that fosters well-being by promoting the building of relationships

Person-centered care and comfort for those with dementia
So what does it look like when caregivers put the needs of memory care residents first?
It may show up as:

  • Giving the person nutritious choices at meal time—or any time, 24/7—rather than the standard meals of the day
  • Being flexible with meal times or other daily activities
  • Providing various social, therapeutic or recreational activities based on what the person likes to do (or might like to try), rather than a rigid or restricted program schedule
  • Offering a few different things to wear that day

This resident-focused care might also mean curbing the number of choices if that will produce anxiety or overwhelm. But for those who are able to or will enjoy picking out a blouse, selecting a craft activity or choosing to eat earlier or later than “regular” meal time, these little things can mean so very much and help create a sense of calm and comfort. It’s part of how we help our member care residents enjoy life to the fullest.

Dementia care checklist
Caregivers and the memory care neighborhood should always:

  • Treat residents with dignity and respect – are they listening to residents’ opinions? Are they accommodating different personalities (which may be changing)?
  • Value each person as a human being with thoughts and feelings
  • Know the residents’ likes/dislikes – hobbies, foods, music, personal schedules (Do they sleep late or rise early? Prefer hair brushed or combed? Shower or bath?)
  • Provide opportunities for social interaction and inclusion – from conversation circles to group activities
  • Create an atmosphere of trust and let residents know they are cared for in all ways – listen to their stories, respond to their concerns
  • Find ways to provide a sense of wholeness and personhood for them as their cognition diminishes – honor their choices or preferences, meet residents where they are in terms of ability to participate or interact

This value-based commitment to supporting people with dementia is the foundation of the comfort care we provide in our Memory Care Suite. Read more information about this life-affirming, supportive approach to dementia care at http://jchcorp.org/memory-care-morris-county-nj/. To arrange a tour or for more information, contact David Rozen at davidr@jchcorp.org or 973-929-2725.

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