Collaborative approach helps create meaningful connections for people with dementia

Caregivers and families can work together to discover best approaches

Many people with dementia living in long-term care homes are in the late stages of the disease and may have difficulty verbally communicating. This can make it challenging for their families and caregivers to connect with them, but there are tools available to help create meaningful connections, says the Alzheimer Society of Canada’s director of education Mary Schulz.

On Jan. 10, the Alzheimer Society launched its 2017 awareness campaign, called Are You #InItForAlz. Schulz says this year’s campaign has two key messages: dementia affects everyone, either directly or indirectly, and people living with the condition are still the people they always were.

Adding to the challenge of creating connections with people with dementia who are living in long-term care homes is that they often require heavy care, Schulz notes. In addition to tools and resources long-term care operators have created, they can also consult with the Alzheimer Society for additional supports, she says.

“I think it is so important for the Alzheimer Society to be supporting (long-term-care home caregivers) in their day-to-day work, and to help them say, ‘how can we help you find that person, connect with that person and remember that they’re a person just like you,’ and that’s really the main reason for our campaign,” Schulz tells The OMNIway.

Dementia is a challenging condition for people who have the disease and for the person’s family and caregivers. The condition challenges people to effectively communicate to build and maintain relationships. Schulz says it’s important that families and caregivers of people with dementia collaborate to help create an inclusive environment.

When people move into OMNI Health Care long-term care homes they fill out an information package with their families to help staff members learn about the new resident and their likes and interests.

Schulz says tools like this are important to enhancing quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

“Health-care providers bring their dementia-specific expertise, (and) their strategies that can really help a person with dementia do better during the course of the day,” she says.

Family members and caregivers can also access tools from the Alzheimer Society, such as a resource called All About Me, which will help foster meaningful conversations with people living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

For example, if a resident is a dog lover, people can start conversations with the person about dogs to get them talking about subjects they have both an interest in and knowledge about.

“You can have those conversations while you’re providing care,” Schulz says. “What we do know from research is that when they study people’s brains, they see activity happening in the brain, even if the person with dementia cannot express it.

“I think that’s important for (long-term care) staff to know, because sometimes it’s really hard to keep up a one-sided conversation, but if you know there’s a good chance you’re reaching that person, then it’s worth a go.”

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