A new philosophy for dementia care
According to the World Alzheimer's Association, “If you are in the senior care business, you are in the dementia business.”
While most facilities provide some level of dementia care, there is emerging evidence that building a balanced day with customized structure can make a big difference in the quality of care given, while also reducing problematic behaviors with the dementia population. In general, facilities do a good job providing structure, however, they often fall short in customizing it for their dementia residents. Dementia is an individualized disease and a one-size-fits-all approach does not work.
AlzBetter uses a software-based program to help caregivers create this customized structure. Step one in attaining the required customization is to determine the person's current level of dementia, and then based on that finding, create a balanced day filled with activities that are important to the resident and appropriate to their current level. We do this in the form of a daily schedule.
If a person is determined to be a high functioning resident, their day may be comprised of higher amounts of productive wellness and enjoyment activities. Conversely, a lower functioning resident may have few productive activities built into their schedule since the can no longer manage this type of engagement and instead have more recuperative types of activities.
In addition to the schedule acting as a blueprint for the paid staff to follow, the schedule encourages family members who are visiting their loved ones to engage in appropriate activities. As the resident progresses through the disease process and important activities become harder to accomplish, these activities should be adapted and modified to match the resident's current level of dementia.
To illustrate, many seniors grew up in a time when there were few electronics and they have always done a lot of reading. With dementia, reading becomes very difficult. Traditionally, books are taken away and the patient is placed in front of the TV or given children's books, which can be degrading. The AlzBetter way is to create books with adult subject matter that is meaningful to them (i.e. WWII, Judy Garland, and Frank Sinatra). The custom reading activity will adjust with them as their cognitive levels decline while enabling them to continue their love of reading. In this example, a lower functioning person will read books at a level equal to their cognitive abilities.
The next step is to evaluate if the current schedule is still accurate and get feedback to assess if the activities that are incorporated into the daily schedule are appropriate. Since people with dementia often have difficulty expressing their feelings, we need to use an observational technique to help us with this assessment. The findings are then entered into the software which alerts care managers when there are problems and looks for patterns to help determine the current Quality Of Life for each resident.
One last important component of a successful program is to give the family feedback as to how their loved one is doing. An online family portal showing a daily schedule as well as quality of life scores can help a family member feel connected, even from a distance. This portal also decreases the family's reliance on the staff to obtain information about their loved ones.
Whether implemented in-home or in a care facility, AlzBetter is proving effective in improving the lives of all people affected by Alzheimer's and dementia.
Gary Skole is the founder of AlzBetter. He has worked in home health for more than 25 years. He can be reacherd at 856-281-1200.