By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions
I had the opportunity last week to participate in a special program that is designed to help caregivers better appreciate the challenges faced by individuals with dementia.
The program was conducted at the Heritage Woods of Belvidere affordable assisted living community that Gardant manages. The community is located in Boone County, Illinois.
It was conducted by Senior Helpers, a home health company based in Rockford, Illinois, utilizing a patented Virtual Dementia Tour educational program. The Virtual Dementia Tour program was created by P.K. Beville, an award-winning geriatric specialist, for Second Wind Dreams, an international organization that is focused on enhancing the quality of life for seniors and on changing society’s perceptions of older adults.
The program provided the opportunity to “walk in the shoes of a person living with dementia” for a short period of time. I was able to experience firsthand how dementia may impact my senses of hearing, sight and touch as well as my life.
I felt very uncomfortable because trying to stay focused and relaxed was hard. I found it difficult to understand directions and carry out simple tasks. I was startled by noises that otherwise would not have bothered me. As time elapsed, I became more and more unsure of myself.
The experience left me with a heightened level of appreciation for what it takes to be a staff member in the specialized Memory Care communities that Gardant operates in Huntley, McHenry, Rantoul and South Elgin, Illinois. Our focus in these communities is to provide residents with opportunities to maintain a sense of purpose and belonging in all seasons of dementia.
During the program, representatives of Senior Helpers offered some valuable tips:
Always approach individuals with dementia from the front. Approaching them from behind or the side will likely startle them.
Do not walk up to individuals with dementia and say “Hi. Do you know who I am?” Rather, I learned that I should say “Hi, I’m Rick.”
Make your sentences short and simple.
Give the individual ample time to finish a task.
Cut down on noise and distractions.
Try not to argue. Rather, try to redirect/change the subject.
Understand that individuals with dementia may not be able to tell you what is wrong. Agitation, for instance, may mean having to go to the bathroom, that they are upset by a noise or that they are in pain. As a caregiver, being a good detective is important.
Stay positive about the things they can do. Reinforce, encourage and reassure.
Most importantly for caregivers, make sure you are taking care of yourself. It is vital for both of you.
Senior Helpers of Rockford offers a program designed to help caregivers assess and provide care for older adults with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia. For more information about the Senior Gems provide, click here.