TINLEY PARK, Ill. (September 2012) – For 12 hours over 2 days, Providence caregivers, housekeepers, dining staff, and Life Enrichment staff receive specialized training in understanding Alzheimer’s Disease and other memory impairments. The first four hours of Providence Memory Care training are designed for all Providence staff, whether they are in a direct caregiving role or not. “The more knowledge we have,” said Deana Wilson, Community Administrator, “the more confident we can be about serving our residents.” A staff participant agreed: “I want to be better all the time.”
Nurses, CNAs, and other direct caregivers receive an additional eight hours of Memory Care training. They learn to design creative programs that improve quality of life. They learn special strategies for communicating with people who are unable to express themselves. They learn to keep people safe without treating them like children. “Safety is an important concern,” says one caregiver, “because the disease has robbed clients of their sense of judgment and their physical senses. We need flexibility and creativity to meet their needs successfully.”
The training itself is creative as well. In one exercise, participants wear stiff gloves to simulate the effects of arthritis. Dark glasses limit their vision. And headphones fill their ears with static or unintelligible voices, similar to the problems many seniors report about using hearing aids. These small physical problems have a visible impact on people’s ability to understand or be understood, or simply navigate confidently around the room. Role-playing exercises like this help develop empathy, and staff are better equipped to brainstorm ways to make their charges more comfortable.
A sense of purpose
Customized care plans are an important part of the enhanced Memory Care programming at Providence communities. Staff spend time researching each resident’s interests and background in order to design activities that will be meaningful. A former janitor, for example, might be invited to help clean the floors; a woman who raised nine children might spend time sorting laundry or setting the table.
During the Memory Care training, caregivers are reminded that all people are created with a sense of purpose. “Adam and Eve were given jobs right away,” says one portion of the training; “that is part of our created design. We need to have something meaningful to do. When Providence caregivers recognize this, and when we know some of the person’s history, we can help nurture their sense of purpose.”
In addition, creative programming tries to involve multiple senses in order to awaken old memories. Music, baking, art, story-sharing, exercise, pet visits, poetry, brain teasers — Memory Care at a Providence community might make all of these options available. Clients can choose which activities they would like to try on any given day.
“By enhancing the Memory Care we offer,” says Community Manager Tammy Virgili, “we can ensure that residents get Providence-style care even as their needs become greater. That’s what this ministry is all about.”
Help and hope
If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease or some other memory impairment, help and hope are available. For more information about the enhanced Memory Care available from Providence Life Services, contact our communities in these locations: