Quality dementia care isn’t just a buzzword. It can be life-changing for a person with dementia and the people who love them. But with the right care, a person with dementia can remain happier, healthier, and more connected to their loved ones. Family caregivers can benefit, too, by getting relief from burnout, and the comfort that comes from knowing their loved ones are happy and well-cared-for. The Alzheimer’s Association’s Dementia Care Practice Recommendations offer a comprehensive guide to quality dementia care. The guide includes 56 specific recommendations, including these key guidelines.
Advanced Planning and Open Discussions
Half of seniors with Alzheimer’s are not told about their diagnosis. This makes it nearly impossible for them to plan for the future, talk about their end-of-life goals, and share their emotions with loved ones. The Alzheimer’s Association strongly recommends an ongoing discussion about care planning. This discussion should also include quality assessments to accurately diagnose dementia and monitor symptoms as they progress.
Person-centered care is care that puts the needs of the person who is living with dementia first, rather than prioritizing the convenience of health-care systems, economic considerations, or other factors. Person-centered care can mean different things in different contexts, and does not limit caregivers to one specific type of care. Instead, this approach to care prioritizes the relationship between care recipient and caregiver, focusing on addressing the unique needs—social, emotional, physical, and cognitive—of the person living with dementia. For example, providing a former musician with a guitar or access to music is an example of person-centered care.
Better Diagnosis and Detection
Early diagnosis of dementia, mild cognitive impairment, and related conditions makes it easier to plan for the future. Early detection may also open up new treatment avenues. Yet about half of people living with dementia go undiagnosed. The Alzheimer’s Association advocates for public policies that can improve early detection. The new quality dementia care guidelines highlight the potential role of non-doctor care providers in early diagnosis. These care providers include speech-language pathologists, mental health counselors, and others who provide care to seniors.
The right medication or combination of medications can improve quality of life for people with dementia. Medication can also reduce behaviors such as wandering that make caregiving more difficult. Quality dementia care includes the continual evaluation of medication options to ensure optimal care.
Progressive Support for Activities of Daily Living
As dementia progresses, a person’s ability to engage in the activities of daily living, such as grooming and bathing, declines. Progressive support based on a person’s changing needs can help them remain healthy and independent. This support might begin with regular check-ins from loved ones, extend to in-home health aides, and eventually expand to include assisted living.
Evidence-Based Non-Medication Treatments
Medication is not the only strategy for managing dementia. A wide range of other strategies, including therapy, pet therapy, music, meaningful activities, and structured daily care rituals can improve quality of life and help minimize problem behaviors.
Supportive Care Environments
People with dementia need supportive care environments tailored to their specific needs. These care environments must embrace the principles of person-centered care. For example, a family caregiver should consider the unique needs of their loved one when assessing whether remaining in the home is the right choice, while a senior living community must devise meaningful activities and support to help seniors with daily challenges.
Assisted Living Recommendations
In addition to their new quality dementia care guide, the Alzheimer’s Association previously released a list of best practices for assisted living communities, nursing homes, and other comprehensive care providers. This guide highlights the need for comprehensive supportive care that includes activities, socialization, medication management, safety planning, and ongoing observation to assess pain and other common challenges. The guide highlights the need for a holistic, person-centered approach to care that is not punitive or needlessly restrictive, and that allows a person to live a full life.
Arbor has supported seniors in their drive to live full, meaningful lives for 30 years. We know that dementia can be a frightening diagnosis. With the right team on your side, your loved one can live the fullest possible life in a supportive and nurturing environment. Contact us to learn more about our unique approach to quality dementia care!