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A New Approach to Dementia Care

Several new reports have identified that, on the whole, the typical nursing home resident has more serious medical ailments now than ten to twenty years ago. Serious conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia are affecting a larger percentage of senior resident than ever.

Interestingly, the reason for the shift is not necessarily that a larger percentage of senior actually suffer now than in the past. Instead, the shift relates to more general long-term care trends. More and more seniors are using at-home caregiving services now. Those who need less intensive aid are avoiding the nursing home, whereas they may not have done so in the past. In other words, nursing home caregivers are increasingly asked to provide support to a population in need of close, unique, sensitive care
Helping those with Dementia
In the past we have often pointed out how residents with dementia are far more likely that others to experience nursing home neglect. That fact, combined with the rising percentage of nursing home resident with these cognitive ailments, paints a scary picture of the future. Without improvement we may see more and more inadequate care and needless resident suffering. Fortunately, there are some who are working to break away from the poor practices of the past and create new models to provide necessary care to this vulnerable population.

Recently the New Yorker published a story on one of those efforts at a retirement community known as the Beatitudes Campus. The story summarizes by explaining that “Beatitudes aims at offering dementia patients-people who have trouble thinking-a comfortable decline instead of imposing a medical model of care, which seeks to defer death through escalating interventions.”

It is hard to characterize the specific changes in care provided under one of these new models as compared to traditional nursing homes. In general, however, new models are based on a holistic approach, instead of a clinical checklist of items applied to every single resident. Individual needs, preferences, and styles are considered every step of the way.

The altered mindset permeates everything, including the way that caregivers interact and speak with residents. For example, the location is always referred to as a “neighborhood” to constantly reinforce the notion that this is a living space and not some sterile institution.

On the safety front, even simple changes can make a world of difference to prevent residents with dementia from hurting themselves. Wandering and falls are very common among this population at traditional facilities. Residents trip down stairs, head down elevators unknowingly, and even drift out of the facility while not understanding where they are going.

To combat these risks, at Beatitudes simple changes are made which take into account dementia patients. For example, a velvet rope must be removed before one can use the elevator. Similarly, black carpet is placed in front of the elevator Many dementia residents view these spaces as holes and avoid them.

The New Yorker story includes many more details about how dementia care can be provided. It is worth heading over to that site to read the whole thing. Hopefully more and more facilities and caregivers will begin to appreciate the value of this service, spurring a nationwide shift.

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