Following are excerpts from an article with the same title as this post written by Kathleen Lourde that appears in the September issue of Provider Magazine, both the print and on-line versions.
G. Allen Power, MD, author of “Dementia Beyond Drugs: Changing the Culture of Care,” proposes a simple yet, for many providers, radical idea: Stop thinking of dementia patients as people with diseases to be treated, and start thinking of them as people with a terrifying, shifted reality who still have lots left to give if their trust can just be earned.
Negative attitudes toward people with dementia are a big factor in the combative atmosphere that can arise at times between those with the disease and their caregivers, writes Power in his recent award-winning book.
“We look at the person with dementia from a single viewpoint—that of a broken person in need of medication to mitigate the decline,” he writes. “Our standardized tests reduce” the elder to a list of “disordered thinking processes, while we ignore the complex cognitive and emotional qualities that can be retained even in advanced stages” of the disease.
During his time at St. John’s, Power has helped shepherd the skilled nursing facility’s journey toward accomplishing the goals set forth by the Eden Alternative. The years of caring for people with dementia have taught Power many lessons, some painful, some inspiring. Today, changing the way people with dementia are cared for has become something of a mission for him.
“The most important [message] is that we need to change the way we look at people with dementia,” Power tells Provider. “We need to see the whole person, what their strengths are, and not just their disability.”
Critical to making this happen is culture change, because without it, “no matter what philosophy you adopt, the philosophy will die,” he warns. “The system will kill it.”
Dr. Power’s lays out for us both the challenge and the solution. Culture change must happen for us to succeed in making a true and lasting shift to person-directed care for the benefit of those living with dementia and all our Elders as well as their care partners. Otherwise, “the system will kill it.”
The Eden Alternative has been working to change “the system” for nearly 20 years. We are fond of saying “It can be different”, and we know it can be. With proper education and training we can help care partners to learn and practice a new way of caring. With the help of Dr. Power and Health Professions Press, we have created a new training called Dementia Beyond Drugs to take the principles described in this article and to teach care partners how to put those principles into practice. Click here to learn more.
We believe the time has come to move forward with the culture change that is so badly needed. We know what we need to do and we have the tools to do it. So what’s stopping us? Please share your thoughts.