Aug 19, 2016 • Provision Living at West County • By: Katy Rice
The dementia care model that has been dominant for decades—and has shaped the expectations of families for generations—isn’t working anymore. Families dealing with dementia are doing so at a time when the very culture of elder care is changing rapidly. Some of this change is in response to a demographic shift, as the aging of the Baby Boomer generation strains health care resources at all levels. However, moral imperatives are also driving the evolution of elder care. The traditional model of dementia care will be replaced, but what will come next? The answer depends as much on the families seeking care as it does on the professionals providing it.
Most family members who provide care for elders suffering from dementia also work, either full- or part-time. Many also have dependent children. These competing demands for time and attention can be not only overwhelming but also can affect their health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, family caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s and related dementias are at greater risk for anxiety, depression, and poorer quality of life than caregivers of people with other conditions.
The Alzheimer’s association reported earlier this year that approximately 40 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers suffer from depression. The same report states that 15.9 million Americans provided care to people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias in 2015, which means that over 6 million of them are dealing with their own mental health disorders while also caring for a loved one. This isn’t just heartbreaking; it’s unsustainable.
How is it that such suffering—among both dementia victims and their caregivers—is simply accepted as part of the aging process? Anyone whose family has been affected by dementia can tell you that the problem is not that we have given up hope. Look at these families and you’ll see people sacrificing their time, their resources, and even their health to preserve the dignity and quality of life of their loved ones.
At Provision Living, we believe that what’s lacking isn’t compassion, but imagination. It’s only natural that we would brace ourselves for a difficult journey when a parent or grandparent is diagnosed with dementia. But that’s where we make our mistake—we fail to see that the disease and the suffering aren’t one and the same.
Low expectations are an effective defense mechanism: in the right circumstances, they help us absorb the pain of disappointment gradually. But that help comes at a price. Once we retreat into our shells, we can’t see the other options we might have—let alone do anything to change our situation.
Those of us who have devoted our professional lives to caring for elders understand all too well the preconceptions people have about assisted living. But nothing is more central to the Provision Living philosophy than our determination to raise the expectations of the families we serve. Families who see the potential for their loved ones to continue a rewarding and meaningful life become the care partners who help make that potential a reality.
Even under the best circumstances, the realization that an elder’s care needs may require a new living arrangement brings stress and uncertainty. There are critical decisions to be made—and often pressure to act quickly—but family members may not feel they have the knowledge they need to make those decisions wisely. At Provision Living, you don’t need to confront this challenge alone. We see this moment of change as an opportunity to provide not just information but also reassurance, guidance and support.
Family Connect is Provision Living’s way of providing families with a starting point—a base of knowledge to work from as they set out to determine the best path forward for their loved one. It begins with a two-hour meeting with a master’s-level consultant during which the family’s needs and options are discussed. It’s a way to connect families with local resources, to help them get the most from their interactions with medical professionals, and to evaluate their loved one’s care needs. And what begins with Family Connect continues with the introduction of a dedicated family support coordinator—an expert in dementia care who is committed to a long-term relationship with the entire family.
We recognize that it takes time and effort for a new living environment to become a home. At Provision Living we approach this period with eagerness, but also with humility. We call it a transition, for lack of a better word, but there may not be a more important time in our relationship with an elder.
Our community has an ambitious goal—we want to be the best place a senior adult has ever lived—and yet at the outset of our journey with an elder, we’re strangers to one another. In forming this new relationship, our team brings a wealth of expertise in all aspects of the care we provide, but that’s not enough. We also need to understand the elder as an individual, and that begins when we come to know the family.
One of the most rewarding aspects of providing care for elders is what we learn from them. Each of our residents has a unique story to tell based on decades of life experience. Our promise to everyone who joins our community is that we will not only cherish that story, but contribute to it.
We have a lot that we want to tell you—about our community, our team members, and a model of care that prioritizes the potential of elders as well as their needs. First, though, we want to hear what you have to say. Call us today at 314-384-3654 to schedule a Family Connect consultation.
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