If your assisted living community is looking to develop a senior living memory care program to provide more focused care for these residents with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, take these few points into consideration.
Focus on Person-Centered Care
In a senior living memory care program, it’s important for caregivers to understand and approach each resident as an individual. Person-centered care asks caregivers to focus on a resident’s individual needs rather than their own schedule.
When caring for seniors with Alzheimer’s, a person-centered approach can offer great insight into the what they find upsetting and comforting. To gain this information, it’s necessary to go beyond the superficial background information and get more personal. Encourage caregivers to get to know their residents just like they would with a new friend. Not only should they engage them in conversation, but also take the time to really listen and always observe what is being communicated without words.
Caregivers should participate in (or at the very least review) a resident’s Individual Service Plan to better understand a resident’s goals, services they receive, and who the other caregivers are who provide these services. This allows caregivers to tailor their level of assistance and care to a resident’s changing needs and abilities as they progress through the stages of dementia.
Focus on Validation vs Reality
Validation method of Alzheimer’s support is based on the practice of “validating” a resident’s feelings when they suffer from an emotional trigger. It’s about entering into his current state of mind and helping him work through the emotions and conflict he is experiencing.
When a resident suffers from an episode of emotional distress or time confusion, a caregiver’s initial response may be to remind her what’s happening in the present day. This reality orientation serves as a reawakening or correction that what she is experiencing is not real. However, repeated episodes of reality orientation can be psychologically damaging because they force a resident into a reality that she cannot understand.
Instead, validation techniques allow the resident to ease back to current reality as her thoughts, feelings, and emotions are accepted.
It’s important to accept your memory support residents as they are and not try to change them by forcing them to change their reality to yours. Listening and empathizing with residents builds trust, reduces anxiety, and restores dignity. When painful feelings are expressed, acknowledged, and validated, they begin to diminish.
Focus on Their Environment
A National Institute on Aging study found that senior living memory care programs were most effective when developed with a balanced combination of medication, behavioral, and environmental approaches. The key finding was that environmental factors are equally as important as behavioral approaches and medication.
When creating the environmental design, your community can enhance your residents’ experiences by following these general design considerations:
- Create an atmosphere that mimics a home, not a hospital. A homelike environment will provide your residents comfort.
- Avoid repetition in your design and provide landmarks for location and orientation cues.
- Allow for personal space with private bedrooms and bathrooms.
- Design a variety of active and passive social spaces to encourage visiting and intellectual stimulus.
- Open floor plans enhance mobility and reduce the risk of falls.
Outside your community, gardens are well-known for helping memory care residents feel less trapped and more attuned to the natural rhythms of day and night.
With best practice ideas for quality care and customer satisfaction, your community can develop a compassionate and competitive Alzheimer’s and dementia memory care program.