For individuals experiencing memory loss, life can be frustrating.
Difficulties remembering how to accomplish everyday tasks, finding the words to get help, or simply communicating with others can be embarrassing and — at the extreme — humiliating for any one of us, but this can be harder for those with dementia. And at times, this can bring about aggressive behavior due to not finding the right words to express an unmet need.
At The Birches, our leadership team and staff understand the unique nuances of our residents. We’ve worked with individuals in all stages of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Lewy Body Dementia, etc., for nearly 25 years, supporting their needs and strengths and finding ways to build connections between their neighbors, our team, and enhancing their experiences with friends and families.
Moreover, we customize our approach by beginning with a comprehensive individualized services plan (ISP), then getting to know every resident’s preferred comforts, experiences, and preferences while building on our knowledge over their stay with us. We monitor progress, declines, and successes and manage needs carefully so that at any time, our team can assist them in every possible way at that moment.
Expert behavior management support in assisted living and memory care is critical to safety and success. Almost always, with expert coordinated care, routine, and personalized support for someone living with memory loss, assisted living and memory care environments should rarely see expressions of unmet needs, frustration, or lack of support by individuals because the team is familiar with them.
Our team at The Birches continues to hone their skills through research and education, approaching each individual as if they were a close friend or family member, and they are heavily involved in our many Montessori-inspired initiatives which focus on dignified, purposeful support to build on capabilities and strengths of an individual living with memory loss.
Time and again, we see that these techniques and expertise make a huge difference in how our residents perceive, strive, and socialize in a community setting.
Behavioral changes and aggression among people living with dementia are very common. However, at The Birches, we firmly believe with the right support, routine, and coordinated care, frustrated expressions like these should be rare.
Individuals expressing unmet needs through behavioral changes are just responding to the quick changes in their abilities and need to be heard and understood.
To help them best adjust and to anticipate these frustrations on behalf of the individual prior to an incident, our team at the Birches has developed a five-pronged approach to managing behavior in memory care.
Understanding & Acculturation — Personality changes can come on very quickly. One of the most challenging things for families to deal with is how fast their loved one can change as the disease progresses.
Benefits of Memory Care — Experience has taught us both the patience and skills to work through this. Before we accept anyone to move into our home, we collaborate closely with family, loved ones, and healthcare practitioners to assemble an understanding of a resident’s current situation, fears, state of mind, history of aggressive behaviors or expressions, comforts, preferences, and disease progression.
This way, we are best prepared to accommodate them and help them best fit in the first day they are with us. We also work on incorporating features and personalized adjustments that promote a calm, welcoming environment and place to call home.
Identifying Triggers — It is not uncommon for a resident with dementia to snap or have an outburst at a moment’s notice. These can sometimes be unexplained, but we know they are often the result of specific triggers. Because of people’s vast backgrounds and histories, a wide range of things can spark a negative reaction. This applies to any one of us, but especially to those living with memory loss.
Loud noises, a change in lighting, losing a possession, a change of routine, or seeing someone enter or leave could be triggers as they can cause confusion and, thus, fear of the unknown.
Additionally, anything that surprises a person may lead to immediate anxiety and stress. Our team keeps a mindful eye for such stimuli and maintains our common areas as orderly, routine, and consistent as possible.
As we continue to learn more about the person and their preferences, or even as their disease progresses, The Birches reviews and records any triggering events in residents’ charts and team logs so that their specific pain points can be avoided in the future.
Our team also understands how to recognize when a trigger may be coming on and supports residents through it. After 25 years, we know that interventions that work one day may not work the next.
It is essential to be flexible, patient, kind, and understanding when supporting persons living with memory loss.
Proven Montessori Techniques & Activities to Soothe Minds — As the only certified Montessori-Inspired Lifestyle senior living community in Illinois, The Birches utilizes Art Therapy and Memory Care Music Therapy and other intentional activities to ensure those living with memory loss have ample means to express themselves.
Such opportunities have been proven to maintain residents’ positivity, build confidence, and make them feel more at home.
Providing a Structured & Calming Environment — A resident can feel dysphoria, anger, and confusion after an unintended behavior incident. In those moments, it is important to work swiftly to address every situation individually, validate the individual’s feelings, and help them regain composure or comfort. A structured environment, including routine programming, also helps create calm by relieving the anxiety of not knowing what to do next.
Residents will be supported by staff they know and trust, who evaluate — without judgment — and determine optimal ways to cope when feeling overwhelmed. This technique is based on the person-centered Best Friends Approach to dementia care.
While all parts of our community are designed for function and home-like serenity, we also have cozy nooks and comfortable corners that help residents feel more relaxed, calm, and secure should some common areas be too stimulating. Each space welcomes residents to partake in their home.
Should an individual be overstimulated, our team accompanies each individual and guides them during this time to a space of comfort and security personalized to the person before returning to an area with other people and stimuli.
Our team knows their preferences create familiarity with the individual living with dementia to address the overstimulation before it escalates negatively quickly.
Ensuring Safety — Memory Care Safety is our number one concern. Having worked with seniors for decades, we have experienced numerous behavioral situations surrounding many different types of circumstances, which has given us many non-medical interventions we can use when caring for and supporting someone living with dementia. Because of our experience, we can quickly return to normalcy and comfort.
Some techniques include ensuring any outburst or unusual expression isn’t due to physical pain or need (including needing a different chair or a bathroom break), that medications are well-managed and adhered to, the environment is not overstimulating, and that any specific known conditions are under supervision. We also ensure that they are not at risk of potentially harming themselves or others.
Integrating Montessori principles, we find that behavioral issues are far fewer and less dramatic because we intentionally focus on the person through dignified support and respectful routines. Because this system promotes independence, individuals with dementia often gain better-coping skills and are relieved of their anxiety and frustrations through managed coordinated care, a structured environment, and support.