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Patient Advocate Report Article Database: Long-Term Care

The Evolution of Dementia Care: Patient-Centered Care Restores Independence

Wednesday, December 19, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jennifer Tucker
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Living with dementia can be incredibly frustrating for both patients and their families. Unfortunately, there is no cure and little available treatment for this debilitating condition. Although science has yet to find a solution, dementia care is rapidly evolving. By approaching care in a person-centric fashion, we can preserve high quality of life for people with dementia and their families.

Traditional dementia care creates a regimented environment and focuses on behavior management, at times neglecting the unique needs and preferences of the person living with dementia. While stability is important, a controlled environment can cause anger and frustration among people with dementia. Studies show that these patients do better in positive environments that allow them to participate in daily activities and have a sense of control in their lives.

But how does a caregiver achieve the balance between ensuring safety and encouraging independence? The answer is the revolutionary person-centered dementia care method. This technique keeps people with dementia and their caregivers happier by going far beyond a conventional dementia care routine. The key to successfully using this approach is to understand all aspects of a patient’s history, and based on this information, create a personalized care plan to support a caring and failure-free atmosphere that encourages activity.

Defining Patient-Centered Care

When providing care for people with dementia, psychosocial needs are equally as important as medical necessities and cognitive abilities. Knowing a person’s social history – such as personality traits, family dynamics, favorite activities, and the highlights of their career – allows professional caregivers to better understand the complex needs of a patient.

For people with dementia, being able to continue their hobbies allows them to hold on to the person they used to be. A care plan based on a patient’s social and cultural history helps to keep a person with dementia engaged with their past and feel more comfortable in the present.

Caregivers can use personal information to organize activities that a person living with dementia once enjoyed — such as gardening, fishing, cooking, going to church, taking care of a pet, or exercising. A caregiver can divert potentially difficult or challenging situations by modifying daily activities based on a person’s abilities and strengths. The goal is to have persons with dementia feel less restricted and more independent, even if the pastime is carefully planned.

Take, for example, the Pathways to Memory™ program by Homewatch CareGivers that has successfully used the person-centered approach and seen excellent results. Not only are there noticeable increases in the clients’ self-esteem and participation in their own care, but families also find a sense of relief and comfort in a more positive environment. Seeing their loved ones happy and well cared for brings peace of mind and reduces their stress. It allows families to be families again.

Professional caregivers trained in person-centered dementia care can also support family caregivers by educating them about dementia and providing practical care tips.

People with dementia deserve to feel that they are still a person with individual needs, interests and preferences, despite their diminished abilities. Independence, self-esteem, and self-control are essential to personal dignity. Person-centered care embodies these principles and creates a comfortable environment that does not restrict individuals with dementia, but rather encourages positive activity and social engagement.

Jennifer Tucker, vice president of Homewatch CareGivers, a national home care company well known for its Pathways to Memory™ program, has worked in case management, corporate wellness, women’s health, and health education.

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