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The Personal Side of Dementia

Health Articles |
Categories: Senior Health

A carefully designed program at Pine Run Lakeview is helping caregivers and loved ones "see the person behind the dementia," says Barbara Dumas, senior administrator.

The personal care residence in Doylestown is located just minutes from Doylestown Hospital. The Arbor is a secure neighborhood for memory care within Lakeview. Lakeview is part of Pine Run's continuing care community that includes the Pine Run Retirement Community and the Pine Run Health Center.

What is dementia?

According to the National Institutes of Health, dementia is the name for a group of symptoms caused by disorders that affect the brain. It is not a specific disease. People with dementia may not be able to think well enough to do normal activities like getting dressed or eating.

Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person's functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of daily living. The person may lose the ability to solve problems or control emotions and may become agitated or see things that are not there.

Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia among older adults. Experts suggest that more than 5 million Americans may have Alzheimer's, according to the National Institute on Aging.

The Arbor at Lakeview specializes in memory care. The Dimensions program is designed to enrich the lives of residents in an intimate and supportive environment. Each resident's preferences are important not only in helping the daily approach to activities, but in painting a more complete picture of that individual.

Thinking Inside the Box

The family of each new resident of the Arbor receives a letter with a request that includes filling out a form about their loved one called "My Life Story." The paperwork creates a portrait of the individual based on information ranging from childhood games played to college majors to military service and life accomplishments. Questions include how the individual used to spend New Year's Eve and how their desk at work might have been organized.

Lakeview provides "memory boxes" where each person's life story is housed, along with keepsakes that are accessible to staff and loved ones while visiting. Photos and happy memories fill the boxes.

"With the photos the resident can do the talking and we can do the listening,” explains Barbara. “The residents love these. The families can open the box and have a conversation with their loved one."

Communication between caregivers

The Arbor is staffed 24 hours a day by caregivers in three separate shifts. Between every shift, they communicate with one another about each of the 13 residents. The information they share informs caregivers about personal details for each individual: what moments of joy or fun were had and which life skills were performed, such as setting the table or watering the plants.

If there are challenges, the caregiver tells the incoming shift how the issue was resolved. For instance, many people with dementia have sleep disturbances during the night. If a caregiver comforted a resident with a snack or made them a cup of tea, that information is shared with other staff in case it happens again.

All About Me

When a Lakeview resident goes to Doylestown Hospital, the "All About Me" biographical sketch goes, too. It provides a voice to each individual with dementia as well as clues that help the nursing staff best communicate with that individual.

The sheet includes things like what name the individual likes to be called and how they take medications, for instance, crushed tablets or placed in applesauce. The tool quickly familiarizes nurses with patients to promote more responsive bedside care while reducing the stress felt by the patient.

Barbara has received positive feedback from nursing staff who have used the information.

"The sheet has key things we think are important," says Barbara. "We hope this is helpful. We want to do all we can to help not just the resident but the hospital staff as well."

Alzheimer's Support Groups

Doylestown Health hosts two Alzheimer's Association support groups for family caregivers. One of the groups meets at Pine Run Lakeview, while the other group holds meetings at Doylestown Hospital.

Learn more about upcoming meetings. For more information about the Alzheimer's Association meeting at Pine Run Lakeview, call Maureen Riley at 215-489-5872. For more information about the Alzheimer's Association group that meets at Doylestown Hospital, call 215-345-2657.

About Pine Run

Owned and operated by Doylestown Health, Pine Run is a progressive, resident-focused community that is full of vitality and enthusiasm and promotes independence and wellness among its Villagers and Residents. Pine Run offers a full continuum of services at state-of-the-art facilities in Doylestown, PA, including a retirement community with independent living units on 42 acres of land (the Village); a skilled nursing facility and secure memory care facility (the Health Center), and a personal care facility on a separate campus in Doylestown (Lakeview). Thriving for over 40 years, Pine Run attracts exceptional people whose energies enhance life for everyone in the community.

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