By TIM SHELLY
According to the World Health Organization, someone is diagnosed with dementia, on average, every 3 seconds. That translates to 9.9 million new diagnoses per year, with the number projected to increase over the coming years. Within the United States, as older adults account for a growing percentage of the population, so does the number of individuals living with memory loss. At NHC, communities have been designed to make life a little bit easier for residents with memory loss throughout the state of Tennessee.
To effectively meet these specialized needs, smaller communities within our assisted living centers are used to afford a more home-like feel that allows residents a certain degree of autonomy, while meeting needs at each individual’s level. The open-concept spaces in our Nashville-area communities are built to care for approximately 25 residents each. Our staff members make great use of the spacious kitchen area and are happy to help residents use the area alongside them. The rest of the space is designed as a comfortable living area for dining and the residents’ many activities. After witnessing how these spaces effectively meet the needs of residents with memory loss, NHC has developed three new memory care centers in the Nashville area over the past two years.
Keeping personalized care top-of-mind throughout the development process, we’ve even woven it into our staff training. People struggling with dementia have unique needs and challenges that leave many feeling lonely, helpless and bored. Our staff members are equipped with specialized training called reality orientation to better understand the struggles these residents have with even the simple things most take for granted.
Reality orientation is all about presenting information about time, place or person in order to help an individual understand their surroundings and situation. These skills help us to affirm someone’s reality by understanding and using the right body language, approach, tone, specific words, questions and positive paraphrasing to put residents at ease. The process helps residents feel comfortable and improves their overall quality of life, but it all begins with dedicated staff members who have a passion for working with these individuals.
It’s difficult for families to find the time and resources to adequately meet the needs of loved ones struggling with dementia, and it is rewarding for us to be a help to these family members. By taking care of the 24/7 necessary responsibilities, family members can better care for their own personal needs while dedicating more of their energy to quality time with their loved ones. Family involvement helps us to better understand someone’s personal history so that we can incorporate that into conversations and activities. We understand that at the point in time we get to meet these individuals, the person we see may not be the same person these families have known and appreciated. It is our hope and intent that we can make everyone that needs care feel respected as an individual.
Memory care issues are certainly unwanted and unpredictable, but unfortunately, they are on the rise in our communities. Many factors present different circumstances that must be addressed, including: the age at which a condition impacting one’s cognition and behavior first presents itself, the progression of the condition, the cause of the cognitive impairment and the severity of the memory loss. Many conditions take years before they are truly debilitating, and our centers are here to provide the necessary care at any stage of a disorder.
Dedicated memory care communities are available when the time is right, but they are just one part of the continuum, which includes home health, assisted living, nursing home and hospice services. Most skilled care organizations like NHC have community relations experts who are available for consultation to help in determining what resources might best meet the needs that exist today and envision a plan for the future.
Tim Shelly is a regional vice president for National HealthCare Corporation (NHC), which owns and/or operates 76 skilled nursing centers with more than 9,500 beds in 10 states. In addition, NHC affiliates also operate 36 homecare programs, five residential living centers and25 assisted living communities. Other services include Alzheimer’s units, long-term care pharmacies, hospice, a rehabilitation services company, and providing management and accounting services to third parties. For more information, go online to nhccare.com
Click here to visit the Mayo Clinic website for an explanation of dementia and other disorders related to cognitive impairment.