Memory loss, mood swings, depression, hallucinations, and paranoia are all symptoms of dementia. Gwen Kaldenberg, Menorah Manor’s Director of the Bresler Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Program, and her staff help distressed residents with dementia each day on the Toby Weinman Alzheimer’s Care Village. “Dementia is a complex disease. With it, each day and every minute are different. Residents in distress all act differently, but assisting them in the correct manner can and will make a difference in the quality of their lives,” states Gwen.
Recently Gwen along with Ray Teasdale, Director of Activities, and Jean Roberson, Nurse Educator, held several cutting-edge in-services on dementia for all staff members of the Marion and Bernard L. Samson Nursing Center, The Toby Weinman Assisted Living Residence, and The Inn on the Pond. During the in-service they used real example role-playing that portrayed distressed residents from Menorah Manor communities. “Long term memories, like social graces and swearing, are often the last memories to leave in residents with dementia. Due to this, many residents with dementia at times have sudden outbursts from discomfort, environmental factors or confusion. Many people see dementia as a scary disease because residents who have dementia do not behave as they normally would when distressed,” says Gwen.
According to Gwen, the biggest false notion that people have about dementia is that is there no hope for the person and that there is nothing that can be done to help. While dementia may not have a cure, compassion goes a long way. “Ray, Jean and I used role-playing in the in-service to make dementia more relatable not just for nursing staff, but all staff—even those who may not have direct contact with residents. I hope it provided a clearer picture of dementia and taught new technics to staff on how to creatively deal with distressed residents,” mentioned Gwen.
After each in-service, staff from all departments were whispering what a great in-service the three members hosted. Talks of the role-playing and how it made an impact with staff were heard. Understanding dementia, its symptoms, and interventions are prime goals of Menorah Manor, its staff and training materials. Learning the power of empathy and compassion goes a long way with distressed residents.