All hands on deck-Working with champions to reduce BPSD

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.

Engaging residents with apathy

A person who is withdrawn or apathetic is someone who is socially withdrawn and is experiencing a loss of interest and motivation. Behaviors that reflect being withdrawn or apathetic might include:

  • sitting alone in one’s room
  • avoiding contact with others
  • making limited eye contact with others.

It’s important to note that these behaviors are not often considered problematic because they don’t call attention to themselves like screaming does. They can, however, lead to rapid loss of cognitive and physical function.

How to approach the person who is withdrawn or apathetic:
  • Try to engage the person in creative activities.
  • Give instructions slowly and break tasks down into manageable portions for the person.
  • Remain positive and calm with the person.
  • Encourage the person to do what they can for themselves and provide praise often.
  • Avoid excess stimulation such as large crowds or loud noises.

Things to try:

  • Sensory stimulation may be helpful. Some ways to do this might include playing music, looking through visually stimulating thing such as pictures from old calendars or holiday cards, and touching or holding a stuffed animal.
  • Involving the person in cooking or baking activities can help stimulate the sense of smell and be a good time to talk and reminisce with the person as their memory allows.
  • Consider the persons’ preferences. For example, if the person is fond of animals, bring in a therapy dog as a way to spark interest and movement (reaching, petting).
  • A visit from young children can be a wonderful, heartwarming way to engage a withdrawn older adult.
  • For many, a short walk or simply sitting outdoors for a short period of time can offer valuable sensory stimulation.
  • Try to engage the person in a 1:1 or small group social activity.  Try to individualize social contact, which can include casual conversations or “small talk.” Adapt the conversation based on how advanced the person’s dementia is. For someone with very advance dementia try to focus mostly on questions involving “here and now” discussion such as comments about music playing, food being served or the weather. For an individual with mild to moderate dementia, small talk can be facilitated by asking the person simple questions, such as: “did you ever play football in school?” or “have you always lived in Wisconsin?”
  • Talk to family members to learn more about the person’s history and use this information to plan activities. For example, a painter could help make posters for events; a policeman could “walk the beat”; a homemaker could help knead dough, dust or sweep the floors.
  • Another simple strategy for facilitating social contact is to share information about your life or plans for the day and ask the person with dementia for their input about things you share using straightforward questions.

Function focused care exemplars

As you continue to work with the “Champions” at your nursing homes, we encourage you to show them these brief videos from our website: http://www.functionfocusedcare.org/videocoaching

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?