Your parent isn’t defined by their dementia. They aren’t a “fall risk” or a “wanderer.” Their true personalities aren’t argumentative or absent-minded.
Rather, they’re your mother or father. They’re individuals with a lifetime of experiences and contributions that have led to this point in their lives. Dementia may be causing them to forget things or sink into difficult moods, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the only thing that defines them.
That being said, the symptoms have to be addressed. So the question becomes, how do you care for your parent with dementia? How do you ensure that they receive the proper level of care as the symptoms progress?
The best possible thing to do is to start looking at long-term care options because you can’t do this on your own. And if you’re looking at continuing care retirement communities, you’ll want to make sure that they can provide dementia care for your parent and that it’s the type of care you yourself would give if you had the time and training to do it.
Yes, The Apartment Community of Our Lady of the Snows does offer dementia care. We’re a continuing care retirement community, which means that we offer independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing care all on one campus. That means no matter what your parent’s future holds, we have the right level of care to provide for them.
Our philosophy for treating those with dementia centers on the idea of dignified care. With person-directed care, on-going training and education for the staff, and a Music & Memory certification, we do everything in our power to ensure your parent is receiving the best possible care with the utmost respect and empathy.
At The Apartment Community, all care is based on the needs of the individual. All staff members make sure to tailor their interactions and treatment to the individual, not the condition that the individual is suffering from. In other words, community members at The Apartment Community aren’t given generalized treatment for things like dementia. They receive person-directed care because what’s right for one person might not be right for another.
For example, in terms of dementia care The Apartment Community has created special boxes for each resident who struggles with memory loss. The boxes are filled with items the care team knows will have a positive outcome for the resident, like personal items or things that relate to their favorite hobby.
Jennifer Murphy, director of Life Enrichment at The Apartment Community, explained that the boxes were created by the activities staff as a way to help during “sundown” periods. Sundowning is a term used to describe the worsening of dementia symptoms that occurs later in the day.
“We found that during the afternoon sundown period, it’s not a good time to add stimuli and do a big activity. They’ve had too much stimuli at that point. So these boxes were created with that in mind,” Jennifer said.
Caregivers have also been trained how to properly communicate with each individual. Oftentimes, dementia caregivers can struggle with the need to correct. It can be tempting to try to correct a person with dementia when they say something that isn’t right or start doing something that might be improper or even aggressive. However, that’s not the best way to interact with someone with dementia. Instead, staff members are trained with ways to redirect behavior.
“Quite frankly, all behavior is due to an inability to clearly communicate. They’re struggling to figure something out or how to express themselves,” Jennifer explained. “So it’s important that the staff knows how to recognize that and find what’s at the root of their behavior.”
Along those same lines, caregivers are careful not to use potentially demeaning language when discussing care plans or communicating with the resident. For example, residents are never described as “wanderers” but are rather seen as still mobile. Words like “bib” or “diaper” are never used in order to be as respectful as possible to the individual.
The Apartment Community has partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association to provide on-going dementia care training. The training is not limited to direct caregivers but instead includes all staff members—from housekeepers to activity directors, everyone receives continuing education on the latest dementia care techniques.
One key component of the training is to educate the entire staff on how best to communicate with someone who’s living with memory impairment. Staff members go through an educational series that teaches them how to be intentional with language and what tools to use to achieve a positive outcome.
Additionally, the care team is taught how to enhance the physical environment of those in assisted living or skilled nursing. By cutting down on unnecessary stimuli and optimizing shared spaces, The Apartment Community is able to provide the best possible living arrangements for those dealing with memory loss.
One benefit of The Apartment Community is the high direct care staff retention rate. In positions that normally have high turnovers in the healthcare field, The Apartment Community has staff members that have been working there for over twenty years.
“People with memory struggles really thrive on that consistency. They don’t have to learn new people, new faces. The steadier the routine, the better,” Jennifer noted. “Building relationships is key when caring for someone with memory loss issues.”
The Dammert Care Center and St. Francis Assisted Living Center are also certified in the Music and Memory program. The program helps those with dementia to reconnect with the world through their favorite songs and musical genres.
“We’ve seen residents who are nonverbal or struggle with communication, and with the Music and Memory program they can verbatim sing along to a song, knowing all the lyrics. It’s such a lovely thing,” Jennifer said.
The Apartment Community has a dedicated staff member, Kim Parker, who is trained as a coordinator for the program. By consulting with the residents’ family members and getting input from the individual, the program is tailored to each person to help ease stress levels and boost moods.
When your parent starts to show signs of dementia, it’s best to start planning for the future right away. Don’t wait until symptoms worsen to look for long-term care options. Care communities often have wait lists, so start your search now and try to get in as soon as possible to avoid last-minute emergencies.
It’s also a good idea to make sure the care communities you’re looking at offer both skilled care and memory support. The Apartment Community offers support for both physical and cognitive health issues, but some communities only offer one or the other. Make sure communities offer both if your loved one struggles in both areas.
If you’re ready to start a conversation about your parent’s long-term care, contact us today by calling us at 800-533-6279 or contacting us online.