Person-Centered Care for Elders

 In Enrichment

At The Ohio Eastern Star Home, we promote an approach to senior treatment that is known as “person-centered care.” This treatment method emphasizes a holistic focus on an individual’s wellness while also factoring their own feelings and thoughts on their health care experience into the equation. In a nutshell, we believe that our elders deserve to maintain a level of control over their own health and wellness. That’s why we give all of our seniors the chance to engage in a wide variety of activities and experiences of their choosing. Even though certain conditions can present obstacles, it’s our duty as caretakers to encourage and facilitate creative expression, loving community, and pure joy on our campus and beyond

Living with Dementia

We know that the people in our care are much more than just their medical conditions. After all, each of us is a whole person: mind, body, and spirit.  Those living with dementia are no different. Make no mistake though, caring for those living with dementia isn’t easy. In fact, the disease is much more than simply being forgetful. Dementia is a condition in which two parts of the brain are dying. This affects everything from speech to walking to emotional responses, but — and this is the point — there is still a whole person inside. There remains a lifetime of memories, experiences, and talents beneath the surface. So how do we capture that while caring for the individual living with dementia? This is where person-centered care comes in.  

For more information on dementia, read this article: “What Is the Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s?

Person-centered care in action as a caretaker helps two elders, one with a walker and one with a wheelchair.

Person-Centered Care

First, we must try to understand how frightening and anxiety-provoking it is to live with dementia. Imagine at any given moment questioning everything in your environment. Suddenly, nothing looks or feels familiar, and you aren’t sure what to do next. You can’t recall the context for your surroundings or how you fit into what’s happening. On top of that, your body isn’t moving like you’re used to because at the same time your motor function is deteriorating, your recall is as well. One of the most important things you can do for someone living with dementia is to create a safe and healthy environment. That means more than just security, and it’s where person-centered care starts to come into focus.

Does the environment we create feel sunny and welcoming? Are the people inside of our campus both friendly and knowledgeable about the inner and outer workings of memory loss? Is the home arranged in a way that supports movement limitations? While our elders dealing with dementia in assisted living may not always know where they are or how they got there, a person-centered care model allows us to create a campus where they feel safe and content, even when they get a little confused.    

Joining Someone’s Journey

Let’s talk briefly about the idea of “joining someone’s journey.” As caregivers, we’re tasked with stepping into a person’s reality instead of our own. It’s a big part of person-center care. Is there harm in allowing someone to think they are 20-years-old again and that they need to meet their children at the bus stop? No. Instead of correcting our elders in situations like these, we use the opportunity to go outside and redirect the journey toward admiring the beautiful flowers along the path. We use it to find something else to do that they are familiar with and can contribute to. This can help give purpose to our elders living with dementia, even in their cloudiest moments. Say we go make some cookies for your kids? As an added bonus, later on: guess who’s enjoying their cookies instead of waiting on the bus? 🙂 

A few lilies.

How Long Can You Live with Dementia?

As we mentioned in our post on the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s, there are several different types of dementia (Alzheimer’s is one of these). Life expectancies for Alzheimer’s are in the 8-10 year range according to the Alzheimer’s Society, though age when diagnosed can affect this. Some seniors have also managed to live much longer, even twenty years, with the disease.

Dignity and Respect for Those Living with Dementia

Dignity and respect are two major tools in our toolbox when caring for those with dementia in assisted living. It all comes back to person-centered care. If you’re interested in learning more, there are wonderful videos on YouTube as well as wonderful people giving seminars around the world. You can also choose to participate in “dementia experiences” that will help you truly step into the shoes of someone with dementia and the way they must learn to interact with their environment.

Living with dementia looks vastly different than it did 20  years ago, and here at The Ohio Eastern Star Home, we’re proud to be part of the person-centered care efforts that are changing it for the better.