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Note: The following was published in our monthly column "Living and Loving: Elder Care in the 21st Century" in Gate House News' Concord Journal. We will continue this theme of dementia in this blog with periodic articles on the subject.
The popular cultural view of Alzheimers Disease and other dementias is that they are all about pain, tragedy and heartbreak. But this is only part of the story -- stop there, and we are robbed of real sweetness.
The wisdom that care partners (family, friends and professionals) can glean from people with memory problems can be profound. If viewed through an all-too-often missing lens, and by utilizing known best practices, time with such folks can also be enlightening, love-filled and satisfying.
Here are five life-affirming lessons I've received from “Habilitation Therapy,” the best standard of care for those with dementia, their families and professional caregivers. I believe that what helps dementia patients feel happy, calm, secure and fulfilled actually represents vital life lessons reduced to their essence, revealing wisdom of the ages.
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You want your loved one with Alzheimer's Disease or related dementias (ADRD) to be cared for at home by someone experienced in meeting their needs, right? Someone trained specifically to care for those with dementia. Of course!
But does experience really mean that home caregivers are offering the care that's truly right for people with such diseases? All too often, the answer is: NO. Caring for dementia patients is specialized and requires training for a set of skills all-too-often missing in the homecare setting.
Did you know that dementia-specific training is not included in home health aide or nursing assistant certifications? "While many home care aides have experience with dementia patients, few are actually adequately equipped to do so," said Deborah Bier, PhD, the director of Caring Companion Home Care's metrowest Boston, MA office located in Concord, MA. "As a result, many don't know or use the best, most proven approaches -- the very ones that dementia patients and their families most benefit from." The result can be challenging behaviors difficult or even impossible to manage in the home setting. But proper training for homecare workers can help make the difference between patients being able to stay comfortably (and less expensively) at home or being institutionalized.
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