One of the biggest challenges in dementia care is the unpredictable nature of the disease. The journey itself has a path difficult to predict and it is often accompanied with behaviors, expressions and needs that are hard to plan for. This results in a higher cost of care, difficulty in matching service with needs and an overall faster decline of the individual. Consistency in dementia engagement can address these issues and is essential in building true person centered care. It is important to:
1. Establish standards
At the core of consistency is the establishment of standards against which progress can be benchmarked. In dementia engagement, these standards relate to what is expected to be done with someone in need of engagement, the type and style of activity, the amount of attention and the expected results. With dementia also comes the loss of bearings and predictable routines. Activities help to sustain a sense of self which helps to decrease challenging behaviors. Standards or expected levels of service allow for better family engagement and accountability. Finally, consistency empowers staff to take a deeper personal interest in residents’ welfare and build relationships with relatives. Staff understands better how to care and support people living with dementia.
2. Consistent staff assignment:
Consistent staff assignment is the idea of having the same staff providing services to the same residents as much as possible. Although it bears a higher cost and can be challenging to manage, there is research that highlights the benefits. In dementia engagement, these values are enhanced by the fact that residents feel more at ease as staff around them has developed a reassuring and motivating bond. It allows for consistent follow through and communication on the plan of care and prevents faster decline as it increases likelihood of noticing subtle changes in health.
3. Providing staff support & empowerment
In dementia engagement, a significant amount of time is spent understanding the needs of the residents, matching goals and then researching and preparing activities. Staff can spend hours on the Internet or at the library trying to find relevant and quality programming tools. Providing support with relevant tools not only increases staff satisfaction and reduces turnover but also allows for more person centered engagement. Using the same set of quality resources by all staff also ensures that every resident is treated with the same quality of care.
Finally, one should always bear in mind that consistency is an essential investment in dementia care. Once established, it allows benchmarking and measurement of outcomes, enabling correct management and the flexibility needed for true person centered care.