Best Life Training. Seventeen GH staff members participated in this intensive, Part 1, 3-day seminar.
Americans are living longer and generally healthier lives due to advances in medicine, healthcare and a clearer understanding of the connection between nutrition and exercise. We are also becoming more familiar with the neurocognitive disorder called dementia that can accompany the aging process. Dementia is a disorder that can be caused by a variety of conditions. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common, but there are as many as 50 other causes of dementia. Some forms of dementia symptoms can be managed, but none are reversible or curable.
Understanding the Signs of Dementia for Higher Quality Care
People with dementia are often viewed by their loved ones through a lens of loss and fear of being forgotten. A person with early or mid-stage dementia fears the loss of independence, their memories and their quality of life. Traditionally, caregivers have been trained to address only the health, safety and management of the person’s behaviors. Today, there are tools caregivers can employ to address the individual needs of the person with dementia and perhaps to lessen the disease symptoms and slow the progression.
The team at Green Hill Senior Living employs the Best Life model of dementia care created by the Green House® Project for residents with dementia symptoms. Best Life is a memory care program that engages the elder in strategies to live a meaningful life by focusing on each person in a holistic manner, with individualized engagement techniques for all aspects of daily living. Meaningful engagement, partnering with opportunities for elder independence, and goal setting are key to their feeling of wellbeing. Studies show that the Best Life level of engagement helps elders retain their cognitive abilities longer.
Green Hill staff devise unique engagement plans utilizing Best Life techniques for each elder with dementia. Personalized dementia care by a familiar team of caregivers, called Shahbaz, employ techniques such as partnering with the elder on doable tasks, sharing past and present interests, and engaging the elder in activities both inside and outdoors to create more meaningful daily experiences.
“Best Life is a program created by The Green House® Project that helps our staff give our elders living with dementia the best life possible” says Judy Wittler Assistant Director, Green Hill Inc. “Our elders are living more joyful lives, their families are happy to see them engaged and are learning how to be part of the process, and our caregivers are thrilled with the results.”
Innovative Care Plans for Elders with Dementia
It is important to encourage as much independence as possible in your elder with dementia at every stage of the disease. Some techniques to assist in the care of a loved one with dementia include:
Nutrition– Eat together and limit distraction at mealtime. Encourage independence with utensils. Prepare foods your loved one enjoys. Serve a balanced diet with colorful choices in separate food groups on a white plate or serve foods one at a time. Limit high saturated fat and cholesterol, limit refined sugar and high sodium. No alcohol. Keep hydrated with liquids and high-water content fruits and drinks.
Exercise– Activity balances mood, enhances the ability to sleep and the desire to eat. Participate with your elder in exercises that they enjoy and is physically able to do like, walking, dancing, stretching, or movement with ribbons, resistance bands or exercise balls.
Outdoor activities– Experiencing nature, fresh air, and planting in the soil are activities that encourage gentle stimulation and enhance mood. Incorporate outdoor time into daily activity whenever the weather permits it.
Cognitive activities– These include making new memories through art, playing instrument, visits with others, or retrieving memories through music from the past or looking through photo albums. Music enhances mood.
Communication– Engage in healthy touching like hair brushing, hugging, applying hand cream or holding hands. Always speak directly to your elder. Don’t exclude them from your conversation and give them time to respond. Do not speak to adults with dementia in the manner you would to a child. Encourage interaction with other adults and pets.
Medication– Make sure medication is taken as directed. Ensure that your elder can easily swallow the medication and if not check with your doctor. Check with your pharmacist for any drug interactions. Talk to your doctor about new medication protocols.
Sleep– Being asleep is believed to repair cells and enhance cognitive connections. Dementia symptoms regularly include frequent sleep disturbances, including night wandering and confusion. Diet, exercise and activities geared toward a loved one with dementia may improve the quality and quantity of sleep. Call your physician if your elder is having any sleep impairment issues.
“By encouraging elders to find their individual capabilities and supporting those talents and skills through meaningful engagements and multi-dimensional interventions, the Best Life culture maximizes potential, cultivates joy, and provides the highest quality of care for our elders living with Dementia,” says Donna Lazartic, President and Executive Director Green Hill.
This article is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen.
Great resource for caregiving – https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/daily-care/communications