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A New Way of Thinking about Dementia Care

Nursing home care is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. While all those at these facilities need some form of skilled nursing care, there are individualized needs for each resident that must be taken into account. Of course, that is why each resident must be evaluated individually to identify certain risks. How likely is this resident to suffer an injury during a fall? Is wandering a risk? How many risks are present with prolonged elopement? Do they have cognitive challenges that must be taken into account? These and other issues are a standard part of proper nursing home care.

That individual analysis obviously would factor in whether or not a resident is suffering from Alzheimer’s or other dementias. The lawyers at our firm work on many cases where residents with dementia were not handled properly, leading to serious accidents, attacks, and neglect. Complex injury and even death have resulted from these mistakes.

Challenges of Dementia Care
Arguing that cognitive issues like dementia must be properly taken into account at all times should not be taken as a suggestion that dealing with these concerns is easy. The opposite is true. Caring for a senior suffering from dementia is difficult work, but that is exactly why family members seek out help for that care to begin with. Most family members work to provide support to elder loved ones while they can, so that the senior does not have to move into a nursing home. But there are many situations where there is simply no alternative to the professional help available at a long-term care facility.

Unfortunately, we have a long way to go before facilities provide the best care possible for those with dementia. A new article from last month’s Provider Magazine, for example, argues that dementia care needs to be viewed in a new light. The story notes that many individuals who once loved being in the middle of social settings, withdraw and become isolated after developing dementia. Nursing home staff members, friends, and family members all often try to provide the senior with more social engagement opportunities to no avail.

One alternative, clams a medical doctor and expert on dementia, is to place more focus on the individual and not the disease. The doctor recently published a book entitled, “Dementia Beyond Drugs: Changing the Culture of the Care.” His basic idea is that care for these individuals needs to step beyond the actual condition-which results in focus on medication-and instead return to the fact that these individuals are the same but with a “terrifying, shifted reality.”

With a focus on mitigating the decline with medication, the doctor argues that there should be more focus on the “complex cognitive and emotional qualities that can be retained” even by those with advanced dementia. All of this means that the individual’s personality, personal values, life history, and coping styles will not disappear once they begin showing signs of the cognitive disease.

Working this new concept into long-term care setting will not be easy. The doctor notes that the systematic method of treating these residents means that without widespread cultural changes “the system will kill it.” In other words, it is one thing to think that we need to re-shift our focus on these issues, but it is another to actually do anything to translate that idea into action that improves care.

Please click here to read the full review of the important dementia care book.

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