7 Fundamentals for Effective Dementia Care

Don't underestimate the power to touch, a smile, love, and kindness.
Posted by The Arbors on Feb 22, 2019 10:00:00 AM

father and daughter looking through a book sitting on a bench

Dementia care and the way it is delivered is constantly changing. For many decades, people were expected to fit in with the routines and practices that health and social services felt were most appropriate. These days, many memory care providers are guided by the philosophies of person-centered care.

Person-Centered Care

Person-centered care is about more than the actual services or care provided. It’s about the way professionals think about care and their relationships with their patients. Quality dementia care begins with a strong foundation of principles and practices rooted in person-centered care.

“Even though a person is affected by their dementia, there is still a human being there — a person looking for and needing love, compassion, connection, joy, intellectual stimulation, physical movement, and spiritual fulfillment,” says Carrie Wilson, director of the Reflections Memory Program at the Ivy at Ellington.

“Different stages of the disease allow individuals to process, communicate, and participate differently, but every single person can still process their surroundings in some way, communicate in some way, and participate in some way,” she continues. “The key to a great memory care program is staff who take the time to engage residents within their own capabilities to make each moment and each day enjoyable and successful.”

7 Dementia Care Fundamentals

In addition to person-centered care, there are six other fundamentals for effective dementia care, according to a report produced by the Alzheimer’s Association. These fundamental are:

  1. People with dementia are able to experience joy, comfort, meaning, and growth in their lives.
  2. For people with dementia in assisted living and nursing homes, quality of life depends on the quality of the relationships they have with the direct care staff.
  3. Optimal care occurs within a social environment that supports the development of healthy relationships between staff, family, and residents.
  4. Good dementia care involves assessment of a resident’s abilities, care planning and provision, strategies for addressing behavioral and communication changes, appropriate staffing patterns, and an assisted living or nursing home environment that fosters community.
  5. Each person with dementia is unique, having a different constellation of abilities and need for support, which change over time as the disease progresses.
  6. Staff can determine how best to serve each resident by knowing as much as possible about each resident’s life story, preferences, and abilities.
  7. Good dementia care involves using information about a resident to develop “person-centered” strategies, which are designed to ensure that services are tailored to each individual’s circumstances. 

Quality Dementia Care in Practice

Here are a few examples of what person-centered care might look like as someone progresses through the stages of the disease.

In the early stages, your dad wants to remain as independent as possible. Everyday life doesn’t look that different than it did before he was diagnosed with dementia. But every now and then, your mom helps him find the right word or gives him a friendly reminder that he has a dentist appointment.

By the middle stages, things have gotten harder on your mom, so she starts looking for a memory care community that can support them both. Your dad was a professional musician, so she looks for a community where music and musical activities are encouraged. She finds a community where your dad can stay up late in his own apartment listening to old records, the staff come to his room and invite him to sing-alongs, and there is a piano in the reception area he can play.

In the late stages of the disease, your dad might not be playing the piano as much, but your mom tells the staff that your dad used to have quite the green thumb and they used to love gardening together. Next time you visit, you see the care partners looking through seed catalogs with your dad. You notice they’ve put a small satchel of dried lavender under his pillow and massage his hands with lavender lotion when he gets agitated.

“The entire environment and program of memory care is specifically geared toward keeping a senior with memory impairment or dementia as independent and successful as possible while living a social, fun, happy life day in and day out,” Wilson says.

Talin Ganemian, Reflections Memory Program director at the Arbors at Westfield, adds: “Dementia does not take away from a person’s intellect. They are still able to enjoy, love, care, and grow. They may get to a point when they’re no longer be able to verbalize the right words, but we are able to read their body language to determine their joy or the sadness. Too often we underestimate the power of touch, a smile, love, and kindness.”

Deciding which memory care community is the best option for your loved one can be very difficult, but this process is all about making life for your loved one as enjoyable as possible. When you start to feel like you need outside assistance, memory care communities are wonderful environments where seniors can lead meaningful and enjoyable lives — and you can experience peace of mind.

For more information about how family caregivers can make sure a memory care community is the right fit for their loved one with dementia, download our eBook What to Look for in a Memory Care Community.

What to Look for in a Memory Care Community

Topics: Memory Care