From Dementia Activities Round-up to Person-Centered Care Practices

Activities for Persons with dementiaI am humbled and honored to work with such amazing and talented people.  As a trainer, I believe we learn as much from those we are training as they learn from us.  We are all practicing when it comes to dementia care.  Every day is a new day and no matter where we fit into the spectrum, we all need each other to learn and grow.  Let's talk about person-centered care practices.

Just today I had a conversation with one of our newest AGE-u-cate trainers, and she shared how wonderful it will be to have a new person-centered care tool to share with Activities Directors.  A tool that will provide meaning to a person living with dementia;  that will engage the other person and build a trusting relationship with the person who is caring for them.

Sadly, often activities for persons with dementia looks like the big round-up.  Bring the troops into the activities room in a big semi-circle, and have them either interact with each other with a game, listen to a singer, musician or another performer.   And 5 of the 25 people in the room will be engaged, while 20 are asleep, some slumped in their chairs.

We can and should do a better job of practicing person-centered care.  If only 20% of residents are engaged in an activity, then 80% are not receiving any benefits.  Let's assess the time and energy it took to get residents to the activities room and ask if there might be a better use of care partner time.

One-on-one time can often be much more valuable for both care partners.  This might be looking through a photo album, playing music that is meaningful to that person and singing together or simply engaging in quiet time that leads to a break in the stress and noise and will benefit both care partners.

I don't at all dismiss the importance of getting residents out of their rooms and attempting to engage with others and certainly enjoy appropriate entertainment.  What is important, however, is that this activity not be identified as a person-centered care practice.   Despite the challenges of staff time and mandated activities, if small bits of quality- time were interspersed throughout the day, I suspect it would provide much-needed respite for staff from the round-up routines and provide opportunities for them to engage with their care partners at a much deeper level.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Insitute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  Pam, along with Ann Catlin, OT, LMT, created the Compassionate Touch® program to help improve the lives of persons living with dementia and end of life, transforming care for thousands of elder adults in assisted living, nursing homes, hospitals, and being care for in their homes.