By: Emily King, OTR, Clinical Consultant
Dementia is one of the leading causes for placing a loved one in long term care. Nearly 60% of all nursing home elders have dementia and many individuals are concerned about the quality of memory care in nursing homes across the country. Healthcare Therapy Services, Inc. (HTS) recognizes the growing number of elders who suffer from memory impairments, and prepares their therapists to provide quality care through intense cognitive therapy educational trainings. These trainings are based on the theoretical frame of reference by Claudia Allen called the Cognitive Disabilities Model, which focuses on recognizing and reinforcing the use of remaining abilities. The therapists conduct formalized testing within this model to identify the elder’s current cognitive level. Based on the cognitive level established through testing, therapy staff and other care partners adapt activities, adjust approaches, modify the environment, and implement appropriate communication strategies. This evidence based treatment model helps eliminate trial and error treatment techniques and promotes each person’s best ability to function. Other training opportunities regularly offered to HTS teams include the Virtual Dementia Tour®—a Hands-on Dementia Experience and Positive Approach to Care.™
Our person-centered approach focuses on the individual as a human being who is still capable of experiencing joy and quality of life. HTS therapists gather a large amount of life and social history information including typical daily routines, past occupation, activities of interest, favorite style of music, family/friends, and much more. This personal knowledge helps to facilitate engagement in meaningful occupations, while tapping into procedural or routine memory which is often preserved in earlier stages of dementia. Using activity analysis, therapists can establish a self-care routine including bathing, dressing, grooming, and toileting by matching the task at hand with the just right challenge for optimal participation. Individualized and person-centered care plans can be designed based on the personal life history.
HTS therapists may also assist with environmental analysis, to minimize environmental demands that exceed a person with dementia’s functional capacity, and regulate activity and stimulation levels throughout the day to help reduce stress and agitation.
Dementia can cause difficulties in communication. This includes both conveying messages to others and understanding what is being communicated back to them. Identifying an effective communication style is key to optimal care and reducing frustration of persons with dementia. Therapists are able to identify specific communication techniques such as rate of speech, processing time, word/phrase/sentence/conversational speech, gestures, visual props, and offer a cueing hierarchy to aide in effective communication. Caregiver, family and interdisciplinary team education is provided to enhance relationships through appropriate communication for meaningful social interactions.
Problem behaviors are often the result of impaired communication. All behaviors have meaning, and caregivers must interpret that underlying meaning. Knowing each individual’s typical behavior patterns is crucial and skill development in interpreting behavioral signs which can indicate a care need to address pain, fatigue, hunger, thirst, or companionship. Proactive techniques to identify needs and comforts often help to minimize behaviors.
Many families struggle with caregiving for a loved one with dementia. In fact, it is not uncommon for even healthcare professionals to lack awareness on how best to support persons with dementia; but HTS believes that enhancing function, promoting relationships, and seeking personalized solutions for meaningful life pursuits is the key to quality memory care. Through a focus on habilitative, compensatory, and nonpharmacologic approaches to enhance the quality of life for persons with dementia, HTS is proud to be Your Partner in Dementia Care Therapy.
About the writer: Emily King is an occupational therapist with 13 years of rehabilitation management experience serving the geriatric population. She has served in various leadership positions such as: facility rehabilitation coordinator, regional director of rehabilitation and clinical consultant. She has developed and presented numerous rehab clinical programs to ensure clinical excellence and has a passion for working with the dementia population. Emily has attended numerous cognitive education courses by Lanny Butler, Claudia Allen, and Kim Warchol. Currently, she is a certified resident assessment coordinator with a record of successfully partnering with post-acute care facilities and rehab contractors to improve clinical documentation and reduce claim error rates under medical review.
Partner with Us! Contact HTS today to become your partner in therapy.