Preserving Their Dignity: Strategies for Coordinating Care (Part 2 of 4)

At The Reutlinger Community, we strive to educate residents, future residents and adult children about all aspects of the dementia process and best practices for ensuring the best quality of life for your loved one – and yourself. In this four-part series, we discuss the importance of providing dignity throughout the dementia journey and how you can connect compassionately and in fulfilling ways.

Caring for a loved one with dementia is challenging. Not only are you dealing with the details, tasks and coordination that come from caring for the disease, but you’re also coping with the loss of the person you know and love. It can be hard to know how to interact and care for your loved one in a way that doesn’t feel awkward or uncomfortable. While there is no way to snap your fingers and instantly make this situation easy, one of the best ways to make the situation smoother and acceptable is by making sure that your loved one receives a level of dignity throughout all aspects of their care.

“Dignity in care helps both the individual with dementia and the family members,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “Many people who haven’t dealt with dementia before may believe that their loved one ‘isn’t there’ and isn’t aware of what’s going on nearby. However, those with dementia can be very sensitive and are aware of when they’re being condescended to or not being taken into consideration. This results in unhappiness and a poorer quality of life.”

Dignity throughout all levels of care is critical for the patient because it allows them to be viewed as a person instead of as their condition. Surprisingly, it also helps family members and friends cope with the disease as well. “When a loved one with dementia is treated as an adult, it helps remind others that he or she is still the same person they know and love, which can help with overall coping and acceptance,” says Andrea.

The Importance of Coordinating Dignified, Compassionate Care

Dementia comes with many health issues and needs, so arranging for quality care depends on caregivers finding the right health professionals, being an advocate for their loved one and making sure the whole person is being cared for – mentally, emotionally and physically. Coordinating this level of care can be a complex and daunting task, especially when the caregiver is trying to find providers that will treat their loved one with dignity and the respect they deserve.

“As your loved one’s caregiver, it’s essential to find other care professionals who understand that dignity is an integral part of dementia care,” says Andrea. “After all, you can’t do everything yourself, and in order to make sure your loved one receives the best care possible, you’ll need to rely on other professionals to get the job done. Knowing what to look for in a provider can help you ensure that your loved one receives the assistance they need and the respect they deserve.”

How to Coordinate Care In a Dignified Way

What does “dignity” mean in relation to doctors, therapists or day care staff? What does it mean for you, the loved one and/or caregiver? Here are some ways to determine whether or not a care provider is the right fit:

Is your loved one included in discussions about their health or care?

One of the biggest mistakes we can make when caring for a loved one with dementia is not including him or her in any discussions directly related to them. Remember, he or she isn’t a child, and deserves to be a part of the conversation as much as possible. In the early stages of dementia, this will be easier to remember, since your loved one can answer questions and help create plans for how treatment will be considered down the road. However, as the disease progresses, your loved one’s ability to interact will become less and less. Still, care providers should never “talk over” your loved one or ignore them as an individual. The best providers will interact with your loved one in appropriate ways and allow them to make as much input as possible about their care and treatment.

Does the care provider use appropriate language and words?

It can be easy to take a parental tone when speaking to your loved one with dementia, especially if he or she is displaying childlike qualities. This is why it’s important for care providers who understand the balance of the disease and personhood – whether they are professionally trained or informal caregivers. Does the care provider speak to your loved one in a respectful tone and avoid “elderspeak?” Do they use language that helps your loved one maintain a sense of dignity (for example, calling an adult diaper “underwear” or asking if your loved one needs to use the bathroom instead of “going potty”)? Do they use leading questions that make it easier for your loved one to answer?

Does the care provider encourage interaction and activity?

Boredom and social isolation cause depression and increase cognitive decline. No matter what stage of dementia your loved one is in, he or she can benefit from being around other people and participating in rewarding activities. Does the care provider offer opportunities for your loved one to be social? Are there activities available that he or she can do even with limited abilities? Are their interests and passions taken into consideration? The best care providers will answer all these questions and more, as well as understand how to deftly prepare outings and interactions that will meet the needs of your loved one without taking away any of their dignity.

Does the care provider respect your loved one as an individual?

Everything we’ve mentioned so far really boils down to this one question: is your loved one treated with the respect he or she deserves? The truth of the matter is that care providers are a dime a dozen (just do a quick Google search if you don’t believe us). However, care providers who do their research, understand the importance of dignity in dementia care and who truly have the understanding and compassion to respect your loved one as a person and not as their disease? Care providers of that type are much more rare, but when you find them, they are worth their weight in gold.

“The Reutlinger understands the importance of dignity and respect in dementia care, and part of our outreach is providing assistance and advice to family and friends so they can better care for their loved ones,” says Andrea. “By helping others understand the needs of individuals with dementia, we can better provide a high quality of life for everyone in our circle.”

For more information about our community, our culture and our mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

Offering Assisted LivingEnhanced Assisted LivingMemory CareSkilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, The Reutlinger Community provides a continuum of care that allows seniors to live a life-enhancing and stimulating environment. Located in Danville, California, The Reutlinger Community’s newly renovated, 110,000 square foot community combines the comfort and familiarity of home with seasoned senior care and skilled nursing specialists to suit any seniors needs, allowing them to live the life they choose with freedom and security.

Because we specialize in a continuum of care, our residents never need to worry about leaving the community they call home or wonder what will happen when they need some more care. Residents and families alike can have peace of mind knowing that there are full-time licensed nurses available, along with activity coordinators, social workers, caregivers, a concierge and Rabbi who focus solely on helping each resident thrive. Even better, our services and amenities are equal to those of a state-of-the-art resort. This is the lifestyle and care that your loved one deserves.

At The Reutlinger, seniors have numerous opportunities to engage in award-winning programs that are designed to engage the mind, renew the spirit and provide opportunities to meet new people and learn something new. Whether residents are enjoying our art program and museum, listening to a lecture or educational program or attending spiritual programming and our wide range of activities, there’s something for each resident to love. Participate as much or as little as you like, the choice is all yours.

For more information or to schedule a personal tour, contact us today.