Dementia is a progressive brain disease that is projected to affect 13.5 million Americans by mid-century. Today, more than 5 million Americans are living with the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, including an estimated 200,000 under the age of 65. By 2050, up to 16 million people will have the disease.
Watching a person’s memory continue to fade each day is heartbreaking for family members and beyond frustrating for those battling the disease. While there is no cure, advancements in care for these patients are moving forward, and some of the most cutting-edge techniques are being practiced here in Coeur d’Alene.
For nearly 100 years, the Village at Orchard Ridge has been providing care and comfort for area seniors. This includes affordable independent living, assisted living and memory care. In 2006, a new specialized Memory Care segment was created for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Staff was shown training videos by renown memory-care expert Teepa Snow, which included how to approach and engage with the residents.
When an opportunity came up to attend a Teepa Snow-lead conference in Seattle, The Village decided to send Tiffany Pettit, who initially worked in activities and is now in charge of admissions. “We chose to invest in Tiffany’s training so we can be a leader and resource on dementia care for our community,” said Amy Boni, director of development and marketing.
The Positive Approach to Care (PAC) training included a two-day fully immersed program which included hands-on techniques, role playing, and group question-and-answer periods all led by Teepa’s handpicked trainers. After the initial workshop, certification requirements included six hours of online training, eight hours of classroom training and post-training followup.
“The interactive component is unlike any other training I have completed for dementia training,” said Tiffany. “The program provides such wonderful methods and inspiring techniques that all you want to do is hurry up and get back to work so you can educate and inspire the staff!”
The whole idea of the Positive Approach to Care method is to create a sense of control for the resident as well as caregivers. Teepa’s methods create a more positive dementia care culture. A task as simple as brushing teeth can be a challenge for resident and caregiver. The Hand Under Hand method offers a sense of control to the resident, even though the care partner is doing almost all the work.
“This technique is used to connect with our residents and helping them with activities of daily living such as feeding themselves or getting dressed,” said Amy.
The PAC philosophy encourages care givers to:
• respond to a person’s change in cognition and abilities in a way that is not hurtful or offensive.
• understand that, with practice, common reactions to the person living with dementia can become thoughtful responses that improve quality of life for everyone involved.
• recognize that the person living with dementia is doing the best they can and, if something isn’t working, it the responsibility of the caregiver to change the approach and behaviors toward the person with dementia.
• notice the physical and sensory environment (lighting, sound, activity) surrounding the person they are caring for and make changes as necessary.
With Tiffany now a certified instructor, she is now able to pass on this training to the rest of the staff. In fact, each staff member from laundry, housekeeping, caregiving and administration are all receiving the training.
As part of the administration staff, Amy doesn’t get to spend a large portion of her time interacting with residents but says the training has opened her eyes to the challenges they are experiencing.
“Learning about the PAC approach has given me the opportunity to learn and explore what our residents in dementia community are going through. It gives me the utmost respect for our nursing and the caregiving staff, and how they are helping our residents live and thrive with this most devastating disease,” she said.
Staff at all levels are having a more positive experience with memory care patients and are becoming more and more confident in approaching daily interactions and challenges. Dementia is a disease that creates anger, depression, frustration and anxiety, and being able to alleviate some of those emotions can be wonderful for both the caregiver as well as the resident.
“When a caregiver uses the techniques, they can see changes in the person’s emotions within minutes. Stress, anger and frustration levels are greatly reduced,” said Tiffany.
While this training can’t completely wipe away the daily stress and frustration memory care patients are feeling, the hope is to create a better culture of understanding and overall care for those inflicted. Stress is also lifted from families who visit their loved ones and see them in a calm setting surrounded by caring staff who treat their residents as if they were their own family members.
“We at Orchard Ridge don’t believe that we are only caring for the resident,” said Tiffany. “We also have a responsibility to the family to walk with them though the journey of dementia.”
If you have questions or know someone who might be in need of memory care assistance, The Village at Orchard Ridge would be happy to speak with you. You can also learn more by visiting TheOrchardCdA.org.