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.

Aiding staff in making care more person-centered

When we consider integrating changes to a philosophy of care it is important to remember that small, gradual changes can lead to more lasting success. A good analogy for this that many of us can relate to is dieting. We are more likely to change our eating habits for the long run if we make simple, practical changes to our diet instead of trying an extreme diet that is unrealistic and won’t last.  Attempting to take on too much, too quickly can result in frustration, feeling overwhelmed, and giving up on making any changes at all.

The same is true when it comes to managing behavioral symptoms related to dementia. Consider having nursing staff choose a few residents with less challenging behavioral symptoms to begin. We bet you can already think of a few residents to start with as you read this! Staff can hold weekly “huddles” to discuss ideas, challenges and successes they have had with these individual residents. This can help them build confidence in their abilities, foster teamwork, and create trust in the approach to care that we are encouraging.