Beyond Secured Doors
Courtesy New Dawn, East Denver LIVING WELL Magazine
What is Memory Care? Memory Care is an entire environment that is specifically planned out for those with memory impairments, from nursing to assisting with daily activities to meeting dietary needs.
There are many things that someone with dementia needs in their daily life to be successful. Secured doors are just one of the many safety precautions that go into a community for someone with memory impairments. Many times people will say, “My mom is not a wanderer; she doesn’t need a locked community.” No one knows how a day in the life of someone with dementia may go, but there are precautions that should be put in place to ensure their safety. Throw rugs are another safety hazard. Typically someone with dementia will eventually start to shuffle when they walk; throw rugs become a trip hazard. Dementia is a progressive disease and things can change in a moment’s notice, so it is important to have safety precautions in place BEFORE something happens.
Why is environment important? When someone with dementia is in an environment that is large and overwhelming, this can create agitation and isolation. Long hallways can become overwhelming and confusing for someone with memory impairments and when this happens anxiety can set in. A person may not want to leave their room as often for fear of getting lost, and then they start to isolate themselves. If someone is exit seeking and there is a hallway with a door at the end, they are more likely to become focused on wanting to leave. Having an environment with a floor plan that allows someone to walk (like a square floor plan) gives him or her the freedom to move. When they are in a smaller environment that feels more like a home, with natural light, familiar objects and lower noise levels, it puts them at ease and lowers their anxiety level.
EDUCATION! One of the most important things a caregiver to someone with dementia can do is educate themselves on the disease. This will empower the caregiver to be successful in their care. One of the first things to learn about dementia is never to debate when someone is telling you something that may not be true, because in their mind it is very real, this is called validation therapy. The basic principle of the therapy is the concept of validation or the reciprocated communication of respect which communicates that the other’s opinions are acknowledged, respected, heard, and (regardless whether or not the listener actually agrees with the content) they are being treated with genuine respect as a legitimate expression of their feelings, rather than being marginalized or dismissed (Cite Wikipedia). Continuing to tell someone they are wrong will only frustrate them and cause them stress, which can lead to unwanted behaviors.
Behaviors. People with dementia may display different types of behaviors: combative, sexual, verbal, etc. Knowing how to approach and redirect is a key part to success. How do people typically respond when someone with dementia is yelling out? Medications? Sending them out to the hospital? Ignoring it? Knowing the right questions to ask is important. Is it because they are unable to communicate that they are having pain in their feet? Are they reliving a tragic event in their life? This is the difference that someone who understands the disease can make by helping and changing the behavior to allow the individual to be successful.
Social engagement and appropriate activities are also a very important part of the puzzle. Living in a community where the programming is specifically designed for cognitive stimulation can help to slow down the progression of the disease. Focusing on activities that people have enjoyed in their past and the present is an important part of a memory care community’s activities program. When someone reverts back in time, you want to be prepared on knowing what their interests were at that time in their life. There is more oversight and encouragement to get residents involved in activities in a memory care environment. For individuals that are not very social, creating an individualized activity plan to get them engaged is important.
Having a loved one with dementia is a difficult thing to accept and understand. This disease is different than cancer or heart disease. Dementia changes a person and continues to change them in unexpected ways. Asking for help and education are the first steps to being successful when caring for someone with dementia!
New Dawn will be opening new communities in Fort Collins and Colorado Springs later this year. Please contact Karlie Selig for information on any of our communities at 720-352-8513, or visit www.newdawnal.com.