Addressing ‘Well-Being’ in Alzheimer’s Care
We in long-term care must be willing to examine the question: ‘How can we create something different?” The Alzheimer’s Resource Center in Plantsville, Connecticut has demonstrated that it’s possible to create an environment and culture that recognizes the humanity and uniqueness of each individual living with dementia, as well as of those who care for them, live with them, and support them. Jenna Weiss, director of learning at the Alzheimer’s Resource Center, said they are “identifying and co-creating practices that build upon the strengths of a community to support well-being. It is so much more sustainable than the well-meaning efforts of a discrete program that an organization rolls out to benefit culture change.”
This is achieved primarily through a collaborative process and a self-determined inclusive effort. Jenna explained that “organizations can have achieved the highest traditional markers of success, and yet still feel they aren’t witnessing the deep relationships and true collaboration every team is capable of. We’ve recognized the need to draw on the life experience and knowledge of each individual who lives and works within our community.”
Their focus is on connection, dialogue, relationship, and engagement, in acknowledgement that these are fundamental components of a person in ‘well-being’. They see them not only as desirable, but as necessary. Valuable time is spent in discussions among all parties – using learning circles, listening skills, and coaching each other – in order to determine how best to meet the needs of each person, their teams, and the larger community.
Anne McCarty, the director of human resources at the Alzheimer’s Resource Center said, “As our staff on one neighborhood prepares for redesigning their neighborhood shifts to enhance well-being, they will be adding staff and will begin to take part in interviewing staff. As they began to examine what kind of questions they might ask candidates we explored the value of closed and open questions from PHI’s Coaching Approach® to communication training. If we want to learn about a candidate and have qualities we are looking for, the right kind of question can make such a difference.”
In order to feel part of any community, each person must feel their voice is heard, their needs are considered, and met to the highest degree possible. It begins simply enough – by listening to everyone’s perspectives in order to develop processes and practices that are a product of each participant’s known experience. In order for the elders to be in well-being, the staff must also experience a great degree of well-being. The degree to which the staff experience a sense of well-being is the degree to which they are able to transfer that into the care and support they provide.
The Alzheimer’s Resource Center touches both the heart of the individuals they support and the heart of many concerns in the long-term care system – the need to revisit the humanity of each person and support each other to be and do the best we can. The leadership, staff, elders, and their families are struggling mightily in their effort to identify and systematize ways to improve the well-being of every individual– staff and residents alike.