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Imagine person-centred care for Alzheimers patients in nursing homes

Instead of just talking about all the negatives at nursing homes (Long Term Care Homes) like how many beds are needed and who will pay for them, the Alzheimer Society of Canada asked people to talk about the experience of living there and experiences of seeing others living there.

The society created a summary of what good, person-centred care looks like.  After all, person-centred care means exactly what it sounds like – that care is, to the greatest extent possible, centred on and driven by the person with dementia – their values, preferences, likes, dislikes – and those of their family and substitute decision makers.  This helped the society be clear  about good care but it didn’t help to understand how to make this kind of person-centred care happen – in real life and in real LTC homes.

People working in, living in and studying LTC helped choose six homes in diverse communities across Canada who are truly trying to take a person-centred approach to supporting residents and their families. They invited the society in to learn how they are creating a change in culture from a ‘medical, task oriented model’ to a ‘person-centred care model’.

They are not perfect; they are on a continuous journey of learning how to keep getting better and better at the care they provide – but they have put some interesting and creative processes into practice.  For example, they recognize that family members are not just ‘visitors’ but key members of the care team who have vital information about the resident to help guide the kind of care that they provide.  Families can help staff understand why their Dad might be fighting them when they try to take him to the shower.  Perhaps he is being showered in the morning and he has never been a ‘morning person’.  This important information might change his care routine to include a shower in the afternoon or early evening, when he is more awake and chatty.  Why is this important?  Well, this simple example shows that this gentleman will likely be more comfortable, happier and perhaps calmer if he feels less rushed and has a chance to understand what is happening when the staff approach him for a shower.  The staff almost certainly will have an easier time of it if this gentleman does not try to push them away.  And families can rest easier knowing that their father or husband is likely more content while he gets the physical care he needs.
The society has explored seven common key elements to providing person-centred care:
1. Person and Family Engagement
2. Care
3. Processes
4. Environment
5. Activity and Recreation
6. Leadership
7. Staffing
Click here to read more on each of the key elements.

So is this the magic bullet?  Is this all it takes to turn around LTC in Canada from one that is institutional to home like?  From a setting that is task oriented to one that is person oriented?  Of course it is not that simple.  ASC is committed to continuing to work with people who live and work in LTC to keep learning and sharing what works – and what doesn’t – so we can continue to create ripples of positive change right across the LTC home sector.

People with dementia and families have a vital role to play as they learn more about person-centred care, asking how they can work together with staff to make this approach the culture of care in the LTC homes they visit or live in. Together they can make a person-centred approach to care the norm in LTC homes in Canada, rather than the exception.

-Excerpt from blog by Mary Schulz, Director of Information, Support Services and Education, Alzheimer Society of Canada

Click here for more about local Alzheimers programs and services.

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