Dramatically Different Memory Care

Our Memory Care program at Ebenezer now has a name –Dimensions. 
Dimensions has five building blocks:

  •     Wellness through person-centered, relationship –based care,
  •     Innovative training
  •     Engagement
  •     Supportive environments
  •     Family education and support

We have gathered best practices in each of these realms and are giving our sites the tools they need to implement them effectively and consistently. 

I chose the name Dimensions not just because it sounds like the word dementia, but because of all the things the word demands that we think about, such as . . .

The person with dementia has many different dimensions  
We can’t assume that what we see or hear or assume about a person is all of what is there.  We must be curious, patient and respectful as we work to discover the length, breadth and depth of each person’s history, personality, preferences, sense of purpose, habits, idiosyncrasies, hot buttons, skills (yes, these people still have skills) and strengths. Their long-term interests and passions need to be encouraged. These people still have a sense of humor and a need to laugh, even if that doesn’t seem obvious.

The spiritual dimension
Did you know that some Native American cultures believe that persons with dementia are doing important spiritual work—communicating with spirits at a level the rest of us cannot understand.  I love the inspiration this idea provides. It spurs me to work hard to create more and more calm in our Ebenezer environments.

Imagine how we might honor and reward care partners and caregivers if we all agreed that persons with dementia were indeed doing the most important spiritual work on the planet! Imagine the environments we would build for these folks! Imagine the walking paths, the sense of peace and purpose, the accessibility of nature.  

The spiritual dimension is indeed another dimension of the person to consider in order to give them the care they require. What moments in their life do they hold as sacred? When do they feel most at peace, most at one with all things? Where have they found solace during hard times in the past? It is important to ponder these questions, search for clues, and to ask the individual, if they are able and willing to respond to them. 

The point I am making is  part of the  theme I often remind myself and all those whom I train on various dementia care topics:  People with dementia are PEOPLE, first and foremost. They have needs (to be filled) and quirks (to be enjoyed) just like the rest of us. There are things that make them laugh (to be discovered and used as often as possible).  They have likes and dislikes (to be respected) good days and bad days (to be tolerated) and they have courage and resilience (to be admired and emulated).
A person with dementia NEVER stops being a person.  
With thanks to Megan Carnarius, author and nursing home operator, for the insight on Native American beliefs.  
~ Marysue Moses
Dimensions Program Coordinator
mmoses1@fairview. org