To change how everyone in your settings manages behavioral and psychological symptoms associated with dementia, we need all hands on deck! Your identified champions are your leaders and role models. These individuals play a vital role in implementing the strategies we want all staff to use when working with residents with behavior and psychological symptoms of dementia.
Champions (along with other stakeholders such as administrators, nurses and social workers) not only act as role models, but also cheerleaders, teachers and observers. Encourage your champions to take a few minutes and watch the ways in which their co-workers interact with residents to make sure they are following the resident’s care plan and using person centered approaches during care interactions (e.g., having the individual participate in his or her bathing and dressing; walking the individuals to the bathroom regularly to avoid agitation; or singing the resident’s favorite song during an unpleasant care interaction). Acknowledge, praise and reward the individual when an effective behavioral intervention is implemented. Examples of such acknowledgments include:
A simple “Great job, keep up the good work!”
A write up in a newsletter recognizing their exemplary work
A Starbucks gift certificate (or an alternative treat!)
Conversely, when champions witness missteps by staff during resident interactions, they should turn these into opportunities to teach their colleagues a better way to handle those situations. Role modeling a better way is one of the best ways to make new learning happen. For example, when a caregiver tells a resident who is repeatedly getting up and down in an unsafe fashion to sit down they might fall…. And the resident persists and gets more agitated….it may be helpful to step in and show that taking the resident for a walk or having him or her stand and sing and dance for a minute or two may decrease the agitation.
Staying positive, encouraging and persistent is key to changing the habits of staff and building a strong team of caregivers who help one another.
Falling is an ever-present concern and challenge for nursing homes, and falls at home is often the reason why family members decide to move their loved one to a nursing facility. Too often, however, staff and residents’ fear of falling can lead to a vicious cycle:
An ambulatory resident falls and gets hurt.
The resident recovers physically, but may now be afraid to walk for fear of falling.
The staff also fear that the resident will fall again, so they continually tell the resident to “sit down so you don’t fall,” reinforcing the resident’s fear.
The resident then sits more and walks less (if at all), and consequently becomes weak (which is just one of the many negative effects of immobility).
One day, the resident tries to walk or transfer without assistance (common among people with dementia who forget they need help) and falls because he/she is now so weak.
…And the cycle begins again.
How do we break this cycle?
Tricks of the trade:
Review with staff why people with cognitive decline (who may not be able to communicate their needs verbally) want to get up and walk on their own. Are they bored? Do they hurt from sitting for a long period of time? Do they need to use the bathroom? Do they forget they need help to walk?
A supervised 5-minute walk could be enough to satisfy their need to move for a while, and may help decrease negative behaviors later on due to boredom or discomfort.
Instead of saying, “Sit down, you might fall!”, try to get in the habit of saying something like, “I see you want to walk. Please wait and someone will help you very soon.” …then take the individual for a short walk/ a quick stand up for a moment or two / a hug and a dance…..
Perform fun “sit to stand” exercises throughout the day with residents….put on some music, have them grab the rails along the hallway and do 5 minutes of sit to stands with them!
Spread the love and encourage physical function…..ask the resident, “Could you stand up and give me a hug?” –The reward back is a big hug from you!
The six videos offer great tips on how to engage residents with cognitive impairment and help them perform activities of daily living such as dressing, oral care and toileting, and reinforce the information we presented during the training sessions. You can even show the videos on a mobile device to GNA’s and other busy staff, as each video is only about 3 minutes long. Consider showing a different video at each of your next staff meetings, and discussing the ideas presented. Could some of the approaches from the video work with one of your more challenging residents?