Senior Care Transition Services partner with great companies such as Dynamic Senior Solutions, they are trained and certified, but they have done more than learn about Alzheimer’s disease, they have seen the devastating effects of the disease firsthand. Dynamic Senior Solutions founders Tammy McVicar, Paula Sabo and Terrie Hickey have all lost family members to dementia related diseases.
McVicar’s Mother in law is struggling with progressive Alzheimer’s disease. “It’s very hard to care for someone with Alzheimer’s; it’s a 24/7 situation in the home,” McVicar said. “And, financially, the care can also be devastating to a family.”
Beyond their personal family experiences, these women also came to understand the unique challenges of caring for dementia patients when they were operating three area Comfort Keepers franchises from 2001 - 08.
“We found that our own staff wasn’t prepared to take care of people with Alzheimer’s,” Sabo said. “A lot of people just don’t understand the disease.”
Dynamic Senior Solutions was created in 2008 to bridge the information and care gaps that exist.
The staff, which includes close to 40 care partners and cognitive educators, provides about 500 hours of service a week to local families. “We want a better quality of life for people with the disease and the people who care for them,” Sabo said. “A huge focus for us is education helping people understand what it’s like to have these cognitive problems.”
Dynamic Senior Solutions, in Beavercreek, offers life-enriching services for people with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and “chemo brain,” as well as stroke victims.
From cognitive assessments and individualized cognitive intervention programs to engaging day programs and home care, they provide a variety of programs for patients and their families. McVicar, Sabo and Hickey are all Certified Dementia Practitioners (CDP), Hickey and Sabo are both registered nurses. “We are trying to raise awareness about resources and help increase hope,” McVicar said.
Do’s and don’ts Fear, despair and frustration can be inevitable after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, which makes education and understanding even more critical. “I’ve had family members explain their frustration after they’ve called and told their father to take a shower and then they go to pick him up and he didn’t do it,” Sabo said.
“What they aren’t understanding is the reality of living with the disease.” For family members caring for those with dementia, there are several key dos and don’ts. Caregivers need to be patient, kind and encouraging. They need to provide positive feedback when tasks are accomplished.
It’s best for caregivers to do tasks with family members who are experiencing cognitive decline rather than expecting them to complete tasks themselves. Positive activities include eating meals together, playing games, reading aloud, working on puzzles and exercising.
“And even if they don’t remember specifics about what you did together, they will remember how it made them feel, so that’s what is most important,” Sabo said. Caregiver pitfalls include arguing with or belittling their loved one.
There can also be a tendency to rush them when they are doing tasks, try to take away their independence or limit their activities.
Living with the disease sometimes there is a knee -jerk reaction to pull people out of activities when they are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They may stop going to the senior center, church or the gym. Sabo stresses the importance of staying engaged for people with dementia. “They need to keep living,” she said.
A cognitive assessment can enable the Dynamic Senior Solutions staff to make recommendations to the family. The focus shouldn’t be what they can’t do it should be what they can do.
“They can still be engaged, it might just be a little Different,” McVicar said. “We’ve talked to families who have walked out the door of their doctor’s office feeling completely helpless. No one should feel that way, but people don’t understand the effects of an illness, whether it’s diabetes or dementia, until they are hit by it.”
Dynamic Senior Solutions programs Include opportunities for social engagement, physical activity, brain exercises and creative activities like music or art. Families can benefit from support groups. “There is life beyond an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and there are also resources and advocates available,” McVicar said. “And above all else, there is hope.”
Key points to remember:People with dementia may not remember what you say or do but they do remember how you made them feel. If you have met one person with dementia, you have met one person with dementia. Understanding the uniqueness of each individual their personal life experiences, interests, characteristics, coping mechanisms has a major role In promoting quality of life. Although there are recognized patterns of symptoms and progression, every individual’s experience and the impact of the disease is unique and personal. Focus on an individual’s strengths and abilities. Prepare for the journey by arming yourself with knowledge, resources and support. Have reasonable expectations of what an individual with impaired brain function is capable of. Provide the pieces of the puzzle that are missing in order to support continuation of function for as long as possible. Look at the world from the perspective of the person with dementia. They can’t come to our world, we have to go to theirs. Develop understanding of the impact of activities and cognitive engagement on quality of life for both the individual with dementia and the care partners. Understand that a behavior is usually triggered by an action or event. Knowing what these triggers are will decrease negative behaviors.Be patient with yourself and your loved one. Forgive yourself for feelings of frustration or resentment. Take time for yourself and allow others to help. Keep humor alive.
To learn more about great resources for your loved one reach out to Senior Care Transition Services or call (937) 630-4325 Dayton or (513) 813-2880 Cincinnati.