I particularly enjoyed this issue of Goddard House February Newsletter. Here's the cover article. Goddard House offers terrific programming for the reesidents and for members of the community.
That Certain Something
By Ginny Mazur and Lance Chapman with Cindy Allard
When we walk onto Olmsted Place at Goddard House, despite the many challenges of memory loss, we find that the residents there are active, engaged and supportive of each other. These may not be the typical qualities that many of us associate with dementia. We’ve seen how much the ability levels of individuals with memory loss are impacted, when caregivers change their responses to them in supporting and
empowering ways. But how do they do it? What is that certain something?
Lance Chapman and Ginny Mazur sat down with Cindy Allard, RT, BSN, Olmsted Program Director, to have her offer some deeper explanations of how this engaging and supportive environment gets created. We tapped into Cindy’s wisdom which comes from her 30 years of experience in this field. She offered us an overview of the many considerations that go into planning programs, hiring and training staff and developing this memory support environment which then allows Olmsted Place residents to act and feel more like themselves. Cindy passionately offered her explanations: “We follow the habilitation model of meeting our residents wherever they are in their minds and emotions. In this model every interaction is considered an activity, part of the program. Meaningful, purposeful programs that connect with emotions are the foundation of care and, they are the spice of life that proclaim, “Feel good, have fun and live in the moment!”
“I’ve been working with older adults for over 30 years after getting a degree in recreational therapy. Over the years, I’ve worked in the full continuum of geriatric and Alzheimer’s care. Several years ago, I returned to school for a BSN in nursing. At that juncture, I truly felt that the people with Alzheimer’s, with whom I was working, needed and deserved more. I earned my nursing degree to broaden and deepen my work so that I could fully understand the needs of the whole person (mind, body and emotions) and have that knowledge translate into the high quality of care and programming residents experience each day on Olmsted Place.”
“We need to form trusting emotional and physical connections with Olmsted residents. We do this by responding to their invitation for us to engage with them in their space and world. It’s important not to initiate, but instead to wait to enter their personal space with their permission. When we wait for them, we earn their trust. That trust helps us develop a flow to each day on Olmsted Place. From early morning until 8 p.m. we are guiding people to and from activities, responding to all that we know about the individual. Groups begin with invitations to participate, introductions and greetings. There is a transition phase as we begin each program which needs to be engaging and focused without too many distractions or too much stimuli. People are welcomed by name and referenced by what’s important to each individual. It’s essential to know everyone and take time for that process of reintroduction many times each day. From there, we can emphasize shared connections and relationships that engage and build community.”
“During each program or activity, residents are asked questions in a failure-free atmosphere and allowed to experience the success of that. This allows residents to regain confidence and self-esteem which so often is lost with dementia. Olmsted staff members are constantly assessing the right balance of stimulation to maximize group participation. Staff, then, remind each resident of how much they enjoyed a past similar experience to have them evoke those emotions again, which frames the personal, emotional context for participation and their connection to their life. This technique offers structure, comfort and familiarity but always with a flexible back-up plan. If the group conversation is going in a direction all are interested in, there’s no need to intervene even if it goes off on a tangent – treasure those moments of full engagement.”
“At the end of each program we leave plenty of time for a recap of what has been covered and learned. This wrap-up phase also helps to wind-down and guide participants to the next activity so they do not feel idle, bored orlost. Anxiety, worry and pacing come out of boredom, out of not getting one’s needs for engagement met. When a person’s needs are addressed those behaviors occur far less frequently.”
“Finally, I believe this approach works so well because facilitating these real associations to experiences and preferences support each person being related to and having their needs fully considered. This differs for everyone. If I suggest to you, “Let’s go for tea”, and you’re a coffee drinker, we won’t connect. I’ve really got to know you. Caregivers need to evoke positive emotions that remain intact longer. It is essential for our staff to understand that the people who live on Olmsted are educated adults. Yes, they have memory loss, but in the moment, they can be who they always have been and experience having a continued purpose in life. We focus on what they can still do...on the person that is still there. As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.