Standards of Care
Welcome to Memory Care Support’s first newsletter!
As I write this, I can think back to my first job caring for older adults as a 16 year old high schooler working in the nursing home which was the local residential setting for people affected by dementia. I had known I wanted to study nursing since a very young age and I was excited to have my first paying job in the healthcare field – never mind that it was helping in the kitchen, not taking care of patients….I’d show up after school at 3:30 p.m., help to finish the dinner meal and take the plated food to the dining area. Dinner was served by 4:30 and finished by 5 p.m. After dinner, I was instructed to walk the halls and start getting the patients back to their rooms and ready for bed. By the time I left work at 7 p.m., most residents were in their beds, lights out.
The memory of some of those patients from long ago still remains with me – the unshaven man in his wheelchair, dirty teeth and nails, glassily looking at his plate of food, not eating anything; the woman who tried to talk to every person walking by “Can you help me? Can you help me?”; the woman asleep on the sofa, clutching a rag doll. The setting was depressing with no dignity or joy.
Patient/resident care has come a long way since those many years ago. The buildings are nicer, the lights are brighter, and the rooms smell cleaner. Many of these smaller, dark and dirty nursing homes have closed, giving way to new construction and beautiful new buildings. The Assisted living industry is growing rapidly and is another choice from nursing homes for people to receive residential care. While progress has been made in constructing new physical environments, there are still opportunities for improvement in setting standards of care for people affected by dementia.
This month ALFA, the largest trade organization for Assisted Living, announced at their national conference that setting standards for dementia care is a critical issue for their organization. It’s a credit to ALFA that they are making standards of dementia care a priority for their assisted living members.
Providing compassionate and life-affirming care for people living with dementia is complex. The pervasive culture of “person-centeredness”, providing care that is individualized and respects the “whole” person, needs 3 things: passionate leadership, adequate staff training and engagements that are stimulating and interactive. This type of care is not easy to deliver. ALFA’s focus on setting standards for dementia care will provide the “top down” support for dementia care operators to assess their programs and improve as needed.
Consumers, such as customers shopping for senior housing, may assume there are already standards in place for dementia care. Almost every Assisted Living sells itself as providing “memory care” for their residents. Unfortunately, not every Assisted Living community has done its “homework” and prepared a safe and life-affirming environment for their residents affected by dementia.
Do you work in assisted living helping to care for people living with dementia? What is your team’s plan to provide the best person-centered care?
Are you a consumer shopping for memory care for a loved one? Look for the assisted living community where you feel welcome, where the residents are busy and engaged, where you can feel the joy of “life” all around you.
If you work in Assisted Living and would like to learn more about improving care for your residents affected by dementia or you are searching for excellent care for a loved one, contact Anne for a free consultation.
Anne Ellett, N.P., M.S.N.
AANC Certified Gerontological Nurse
Founder, Executive Director - Memory Care Support
Ph. 949 933-6201