Assisted Living, News, Skilled Nursing Facility

Dementia care competencies: Creating a strong foundation

Editor’s note: This post is an excerpt taken from one of HCPro’s dementia titles, Serving Residents with Dementia: Transformative Care Strategies for Assisted Living Providers, written by Kerry C. Mills.

A program for people with dementia cannot be thrown together overnight. Caring for a group of people who have different histories, tastes, interests, personalities, physical abilities, cultures, and beliefs is complex. Given this reality, it should come as no surprise that creating a program that meets the distinct, sometimes disparate needs of these individuals and aims to help each one stay independent is also complex.

What is your driving motivation for creating a dementia care program in your facility? What is your primary goal? To foster facility-wide buy-in and ongoing success, the entire care team must come together and answer the following cornerstone questions in a deliberate manner before developing a new program or reinvigorating an existing one:

  • What are the top goals of your program? Some aims might include the following:
    • For residents to be loved and cared for
    • For residents to be as independent as possible
    • To give family members peace of mind about their loved one
    • To minimize the use of pharmacology in care techniques
    • A strong, empowered workforce
  • Do you want to be guided by a mission? If so, what will it be? For instance:
    • Providing a holistic approach founded on care and compassion
    • Recognizing the personhood of individuals with dementia
    • Upholding and promoting the well-being of each resident
  • What message do you want to send to those who might place their loved one in your care?
  • Realistically, what level of resident dependency can your current or prospective staff and resources accommodate?
    • Do your state/federal regulations require any changes or additions to these aspects of your facility if you decide to care for a more dependent population?
  • Is your physical space conducive to the number of residents you have?
    • If you decide to care for residents with advanced dependency, do you have the physical space to accommodate many wheelchairs?
    • If you decide to care for residents who require special accommodations (e.g., end-of-life care or specialized equipment), this service model will likely necessitate the hiring or scheduling of additional staff. Do you have space and budget flexibility to expand your workforce?
  • What services do you want to provide? For instance:
    • Personal care
    • Medication management
    • Physical therapy
    • A full day of engagement
    • Visiting doctors
    • Visiting pets
    • A garden that residents help maintain
  • What approaches do you use to attract and retain the right care team members?
    • Do you create job descriptions that outline the core responsibilities for each role?
    • Does your interview process empower the employer to effectively assess each candidate’s ability, personality, and general fit for the job?
    • Do you prioritize personality, experience, or a combination?
  • What are your expectations for staff? How have you made them aware of these expectations? How do you plan to enforce these expectations?
  • Do you have a specific reason behind the following:
    • Your choice of paint color in the kitchen? Your arrangement of and within bedrooms? Believe it or not, these decisions can have a huge impact on residents’ behaviors and levels of independence.
    • Your choice of visiting doctors? Have you interviewed the psychiatrist or nurse practitioner to ensure that their beliefs about people with dementia are in line with your goals?

For more dementia care strategies, nearly 20 interactive forms and tools for creating a robust dementia care program, and anecdotes to common challenges that arise when caring for dementia residents taken from the author’s own international experience as a dementia care partner and pioneer, click here.