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What's your best practice for memory care?

March 2, 2016
by Nicole Stempak, Senior Editor
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Conferences are a chance to learn from industry experts. Last week's Memory Care Forum in Austin, Texas, sponsored by the Institute for the Advancement of Senior Care, was no exception. The days were filled with fascinating presentations, but often the richest insights are shared during coffee breaks or while networking at lunch.

Long-Term Living took advantage of those water cooler moments to learn best practices actually in practice. We asked attendees one simple question: What do you think is a dementia care best practice that your facility employs?

Here are some of the responses. We invite those of you who might not have been able to attend to keep the discussion going at the virtual water cooler by sharing your own best practices in the comments section below or on our Twitter or Facebook pages.


"We just started a music care therapy. We select a few patients who have increased behaviors: wandering, agitation or anxiety. We get with their family members to learn their music preferences, and we put on these headphones a couple times a day. They just listen to music. Some dance. Some of them will keep it on for an hour, some of them for only five minutes. All of the wandering, the agitation goes away. They are calmer, more alert and their general affect is just happier."
—Sarah Stephens, RN,Glen Rose Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Glen Rose, Texas


"I call it personal activity preference scrapbooks, which is not life-story books. Having pictures of the family and things that he's been in the past means nothing. Instead, it's objects of special value. I did this with my dad who has dementia, and this is what I teach. I put a picture of his World War II ship with the story on the back. It's laminated so staff can just take it out, read that and show that to him. He was a musician, so I had scores of easy music so he could see the notes on the page. I had poems of some of his favorite poets. These are interests that staff can use to engage him. That becomes the exercise. It works really well."
—Natalie Davis, activities and education consultant and owner of ActivTimes Consulting and Education in Dallas


"We do consistent staffing. We have two crews: Monday through Thursday and Friday through Sunday, same staff. We don't rotate them around unless we're short. It gives them consistency. We also encourage our staff to hang out with the resident when they're doing activities to help them engage in activities. We train new hires right off the bat because this is the expectation. We don't do like the other facilities. We don't correct a resident. If a resident says, 'Oh my husband is here,' we don't say, 'Oh no, he's not here, he's dead.' We just ask them to tell me about your husband. What does he look like? Why he's coming to visit? The resident can talk, and we'll listen. And have the familiar face of the staff stay with them."
—Bunleng Hill, director of nursing at Wellsville Retirement Community in Wellsville, Kan.


"You know how rehabbing old furniture is a big deal? I have an employee who loves to do that. So she went to the antiques store, and she found all these old TV cabinets that everybody's getting rid of. Our maintenance guys put them on rollers so I can roll it wherever I need it. Let's say you have an agitated resident but they love babies but they like that so we might hand them the baby and say 'The baby needs to be changed. Will you help me?' 'Yes.' Then we'll take them into their room with the cuddle station. You open it up. It has a bassinette. All the blankets are textured with the little knobby stuff, soft, satin. On the doors, she actually screwed in old nursery rhyme pictures and songs that we can sing them 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star' and things like that. We're doing another one for men related to radios. We put screwdrivers and stuff like that in there so that they can fiddle with it. And when they're not being used, they're closed off."
—Terri Howell, nursing home administrator for John Knox Manor II in Montgomery, Ala.


"The most effective top best practice I've seen, maybe it's because I'm an animal person, is the Eden Alternative program and incorporating that into the dementia program. I have seen a lot of positive effects on the residents' quality of life. If they're acting out, animals relax the resident. The animal has the sense of knowing when a resident is in pain or dying, so it's a calming effect for the family, staff and the residents. I've never seen them get aggressive towards an animal or a cat that goes into their lap or goes into bed with them."
—Barbara Bierstedt, RN, senior nursing consultant for Solutions in Houston