Dementia may define a set of symptoms, but it does not define a life. Through a person-centered approach, all individuals are capable of living well with Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias.

Memory care services allow individuals living with dementia to maintain their independence while remaining in the comfort of home. Encompass Health – Home Health & Hospice takes a holistic approach to memory care that supports home health and hospice patients, as well as their caregivers, throughout the course of their disease.

About the memory care program

The Encompass Health memory care program has three specific goals: to determine an individual’s best functional ability and facilitate an environment that supports this; to give those living with dementia a higher quality of life and enable them to live in their homes and communities longer; and to minimize hospitalizations and the use of antipsychotic medications.  

The Encompass Health care team completes a comprehensive assessment and develops a care plan to address all cognitive and functional impairments related to the patient’s dementia.  

“A key element to our memory care program is taking a patient-centered approach,” said Julie Hardy, clinical education consultant for Encompass Health – Home Health & Hospice. “We’re able to help patients and families realize that while their pasts may be their new presents, patients can still have quality of life while living with dementia.”

Meeting the patient where they are 

One Encompass Health memory care patient had Lewy body dementia, a disease that develops in nerve cells of the brain that affect thinking, memory and movement. The patient’s family had grown increasingly concerned as the patient was having hallucinations of kangaroos outside her window.

Encompass Health clinicians take time during each assessment to get to know the patient, which helps them determine the patient’s reality. After their assessment, the clinician found that the patient believed she was in her teens and loved to play with a slingshot.

During a follow-up visit with the family present, the patient said she saw the kangaroos. Instead of dismissing the patient, the clinician encouraged her to use a slingshot to shoo away the kangaroos. The patient picked up her imaginary slingshot, proudly shooed the kangaroos away and was then able to focus her attention back on the visit.

“In this instance, we were able to help the family see how validating the patient’s hallucinations, rather than arguing with them, was able to improve her quality of life and decrease the family’s stress level,”  Hardy said.

Aging in place

Aging in place is a common goal for most older adults, even those living with dementia. Encompass Health clinicians are able to assess the patient’s symptoms and then ensure their environment supports this, allowing the patient to safely maintain their independence at home.

Another memory care patient experienced wandering as a symptom of her dementia. The patient’s family would leave all the lights on in the house at night out of fear of her falling in a dark room, but then the family worried that she might wander outside and get lost at night.  

Her Encompass Health clinician recommended turning lights on only in rooms that did not have a door that led outside. This created a safe path for the patient to wander and encouraged her to only go where the lights were on, helping her avoid areas that would lead outside.

“Creating an environment that supports the patient allowed us to resolve the family’s fear of wandering and enabled the patient to maintain a level of independence at home.”

Understanding and adapting to dementia in yourself or a loved one can be a difficult journey, but specialized, compassionate care can offer the necessary support to help all those affected and improve quality of life.

For more information on living well with dementia download these tips for caregivers and persons with dementia.

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