Caring Companion Home Care has adopted and trains our caregivers in habilitation therapy when caring for clients with Alzheimers Disease and related dementias (ADRD). This approach was developed at the Massachusetts Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, and is considered to be the best standard of care for all types of dementia. Sadly, it is not in as widespread use in all aspects of elder care as it should be.
Habilitation therapy is a comprehensive behavioral approach to caring for people with dementia. It focuses not on what the person has lost through their illness, but on their remaining abilities, aiming to create and maintain a positive emotional state through the course of each day. Their capabilities, independence and morale are thoughtfully engaged to produce greater psychological wellbeing. In this way, difficult symptoms can be reduced or eliminated, despite the disease’s progress.
We had been using this technique for several years, but when the Alzheimer's Association and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs offered a curriculum based on Habilitation Therapy, we jumped at the chance to become certified Habitliation Therapy coach. This method emphasizes validating the client’s emotions, maintaining dignity, creating moments for success, and utilizing all of the patient’s remaining skills. Habilitation therapy helps caregivers have positive and successful interactions with their loved ones by optimizing and maximizing the care recipient’s strongest skills. The goal is not to re-habilitate the client to an earlier state of functioning, but to “meet them where they are” with the remaining skills they possess.
Every interaction with the person with dementia, every task performed for or with the client, and every aspect of the environment around the client needs to be thoughtfully selected or adjusted with habilitation in mind. Habilitation therapy can be applied in the home or institutional setting, and can be learned by family, friends and professionals alike.
Habilitative therapy also benefits caregivers, be they family, friends, or professionals. The ability to enjoy time together and to share a relationship, activities, and feelings with a person with dementia can be uplifting for everyone involved. The satisfaction we at Caring Companion get from forming warm bonds with our dementia clients, and to help them have satisfying, peaceful days is what keeps us excited about this work.