Tribune Print Share Text

Personalized care for dementia sufferers

Created date

January 24th, 2012
Matt Narrett, M.D., is chief medical officer for Erickson Living and directs the provision of medical care at all Erickson Living communities. He received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and is board certified in internal medicine and geriatrics. He is coauthor of Old Is the New Young, a guide to successful aging (available on Caring for someone with dementia can be difficult and stressful. While you d like to keep your loved one at home as long as possible, it often becomes necessary to consider a nursing facility. The institutional approach to dementia care has been the norm for years, but it has not been proven to be beneficial to patients or their families. A specialized environment with individualized care, on the other hand, has benefits for all involved.

Homelike environment

Small, homelike settings can be found at some long-term care facilities. Instead of resembling hospitals (with long hallways and nursing stations), they typically have individual bedrooms and a communal kitchen and living area. The staff can engage residents in household tasks like preparing meals, doing laundry, or cleaning. They also provide activities such as walking groups or other hobbies enjoyed by residents such as gardening or knitting. Families are able to become much more involved than at a standard nursing home. This type of setting also allows residents, staff, and families to know each other better and provide much-needed support for everyone. In addition, having involvement of a multidisciplinary team of health professionals can greatly enhance the care provided. A recent study showed that these care strategies result in positive experiences for both patients and families, and that emotional stress and behavior problems can be reduced. According to the National Institute on Aging, over five million people in the U.S. suffer from Alzheimer s disease, the most common form of dementia. With that number likely to increase with the aging of our nation, it s essential to find new ways of making the late stages of this disease better for everyone. In good health, Dr. Narrett