Today, millions of people worldwide live with Alzheimer's or dementia, and the number will continue to grow as baby boomers reach senior citizenship.
As the dementia population grows, we must modify our world to accommodate its members' needs and experiences, ultimately nurturing a Dementia Capable Society — a rich landscape that empowers people with dementia to engage in meaningful activities and maintain a meaningful life, as well as a landscape that supports loved ones as they journey through the disease.
Indeed, the Alzheimer's Association states in Dementia Care Practice Recommendations for Assisted Living Residences and Nursing Homes [PDF] that “engagement in meaningful activities is one of the critical elements of good dementia care,” emphasizing that such opportunities can not only help residents maintain functional abilities, but also improve their overall quality of life.
To that aim, the organization establishes three fundamental objectives around which the document's proposals for social engagement are based:
- Providing a consistent context filled with personal meaning, a sense of community, options, and enjoyment
- Creating activities to perform with a resident, rather than to or for a person
- Respecting the resident's preferences, even if it means recognizing his or her tendency for isolation
Creating such experiences is critical for promoting the well-being of all parties affected by today's dementia care environment, from those living with the disease to their caregivers and healthcare providers, who may face physical, emotional, and financial strain as a result of their various relationships with the disease.
However, creating holistic dementia living and care settings takes time. It demands a strong, persistent, yet adaptable approach that the entire dementia care team can embrace. A critical component of developing such a thorough dementia care offering is establishing underlying best practices based on current research, generating quantifiable data, and being malleable enough to meet each resident’s unique needs — all of which are necessary factors in facilitating consistent positive outcomes.
This article sums up the fundamental ideas of dementia care best practices and demonstrates strategies for integrating the components into a successful, sustainable, and universal care system.
Understanding Core Principles
When developing a dementia care standard that will be implemented across the nursing home, it is critical to establish principles that are based on objective, quantifiable goals for residents, such as the following:
- Optimizing the quality of life, functional independence, health, and safety of each individual
- Advising and assisting family members and caregivers
- Reducing hospitalizations and the use of psychotropic medications
While providers must establish their own goals and principles based on the unique circumstances of their resident population, many of today's leading dementia care experts, including the Alzheimer's Association and the American Occupational Therapy Society, have agreed on certain general principles that serve as the foundation for virtually any Alzheimer's or dementia best practice. When successfully implemented, these factors work in unison to create person-centered and abilities-focused care. Let’s look into the key attributes of these sister philosophies.
The term "person-centered care" has a number of roots, one of which is Dr. Thomas Kitwood's social psychology. It entails offering treatments and actions motivated by the information we discover about each patient. Choice, respect, purposeful living, dignity, and self-determination are among the values that guide this contemporary approach, particularly when applied to dementia care. The key areas of emphasis are placing the person ahead of the task or sickness and framing care around the recipient's goals and needs.
This is another notion with disparate origins, though two of its key motivations are Claudia Kay Allen's work as an eminent occupational therapist and developer of a ground-breaking rehabilitation paradigm for people with cognitive disorders, as well as the occupational therapy profession itself. According to these sources, it is vital to focus on what a person with chronic, progressive cognitive impairment (such as that associated with Alzheimer's or dementia) can still perform rather than on the abilities he or she has lost. Assisting individuals in regaining access to these retained capacities at any stage of sickness and in any environment of care can help ensure that positive outcomes continue.
If you wish to know more about the different stages of dementia for elderly individuals, check out this Senior Strong article today!
William Rivers is an editor with a master’s degree in Human Services Counseling at Maine State University. He has more than 20 years of experience working in the senior healthcare industry.