Now, with communities that offer programming like Brookdale’s Clare Bridge, dementia care has evolved into a much more personalized experience. Juliet Holt Klinger, Brookdale’s gerontologist, says this evolution came out of an understanding that people living with dementia need distinct support.
“In the history of senior living, I think there’s been a real recognition that people living with dementia benefit from a specialized environment and specialized attention. So, it’s not just the care approach, but the environment itself that needs to be created in a way that supports them.”
This means there is no one-size-fits-all approach to care. Techniques that work for one resident may not work for another. Instead, the care partners at Clare Bridge are trained to provide person-centered care.
“In the past, in long term care, it was thought that you bring a person to live in the institution and they comply with the institution,” Klinger shares. “Now what we know is by providing person-centered care it’s really about maintaining identity by honoring who that person is and upholding preferences and history and their own structure for the day. Your identity shouldn't have to change if you’re living in a dementia care setting.”
To support the person-centered relationship between the care partners and the residents, Clare Bridge residents have a consistently assigned care associate who knows their histories, routines and preferences. This helps build bonds and provides residents with a sense of stability and comfort that they are well-known where they live. This comfort is not the only result of being well-known, as residents are engaged in a person-centered way, there is often a sort of reawakening.
“There’s a bloom that happens when folks move into a Clare Bridge,” she says. “Sometimes you’ll find a person who’s still living at home being cared for by one other person and as a result of their dementia, their world has become pretty narrow.”
In a well-intentioned effort to keep those with dementia safe at home, family members or at-home caregivers sometimes restrict what the person can do or be exposed to in the name of safety. They might be kept inside more or might not be allowed to do things they used to do, like cook or do household chores.
At times, this approach may do more harm than good, Klinger says, and it’s one of the main reasons the Brookdale approach is one of offering a “sheltered freedom.”
“I think that when people living with dementia move into Clare Bridge that world is opened back up and we’re able to provide experiences on a daily basis and we’re able to utilize their remaining skills,” she admits. “I think the best stories are those. They play piano again. They knit again. They garden again.”
One key to successful dementia care is realizing that people living with dementia need to have daily activities adapted to them and their skills. With an emphasis on living rather than existing with a set of limiting rules, Klinger says she’s seen residents learn new languages, take care of animals and even pick up a few new dance moves.
“When you walk into a Clare Bridge you’re going to see people who are living and engaged,” she says. “With everything we’re doing, we’re striving to create a sense of belonging for the person living with the disease, a real purpose and meaning through the activities that we do with them.”
More from Brookdale
If you want to learn more about how to support those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, we can be a resource. We’ll help your loved one receive the attention, respect and love they deserve. Take a look at our Alzheimer's and Dementia Care articles to learn more.
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