Seeing Through Their Eyes: Annual Dementia Education Supports Empathetic Memory Care

An elderly man looks confused. Providence communities offer compassionate Memory Care services.

At Providence Life Services, we believe there is a better way through the journey of dementia. That’s why each year, every caregiver who works in one of our Memory Care communities – including nurses, CNAs, therapists, and Life Enrichment staff – attends 12 hours of extra training focused on providing quality, compassionate memory care.

The 2-day continuing education seminar is presented by the Providence Research and Education Institute. Linda Schutt, Vice-President of Education, and her team continually refine the curriculum each year, incorporating the latest techniques and evidence-based practice.

Understanding the Brain

Participants begin by studying the human brain, lobe by lobe, and learning about the roles and functions of each area. Many areas of the brain work together in complex ways to facilitate language, which is why those with dementia often struggle to express themselves. The more advanced the disease becomes, the more important it is to not give up on communication. “People with dementia still have a need to be understood, and to understand,” says Linda.

An Empathetic Approach

Beyond a purely academic comprehension of the effects of dementia, it is important that caregivers develop empathy for those they serve by seeing the world through their eyes. One way that participants gain insight is through an immersive, virtual reality experience.

Using special 3D headsets and an app called “A Walk Through Dementia,” developed by the organization Alzheimer’s Research UK, viewers experience first-hand how dementia affects a person’s life beyond memory loss. A trip to the grocery store becomes disorienting and overwhelming. A reflective puddle on the sidewalk is misperceived as a frightening, cavernous hole. “This experience helps us recreate how a person with dementia sees the world differently, and how that makes them feel,” explains Linda. “That allows our staff to better help our residents feel more secure and supported.”

Other topics covered in the course include resident safety, developing meaningful and enjoyable activities based on residents’ own history and interests, and understanding the effects of medications and alternative non-pharmacological approaches to symptom relief.

This empathetic approach to care also extends to the families and loved ones of residents. Their insights, experience and ongoing partnership is crucial to facilitate a successful transition into the Memory Care community. “We want families to know that we’re not trying to take their place,” says Linda. “We’re here to support them, just like they’ve been supporting their loved one for all these years.”

Help and Hope

If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease or some other form of dementia, help and hope are available. For more information about the enhanced Memory Care available from Providence Life Services, contact our communities in these locations: