There’s a contagious energy you absorb from being around trailblazers and I’m feeling remarkably energized after attending the Pioneering a New Culture in Aging Conference, the annual conference of the Pioneer Network which was held in Denver, Colorado this week. I am honored to be a new board member of the organization, which is dedicated to changing society’s attitudes toward aging and elder care. This mission is dear to my heart and very aligned with my work here at Brookdale. What a week! It was a truly inspiring experience to be surrounded by so many passionate people who are committed to changing the cultural perception of aging.
I was so pleased to be able to provide two sessions at this year’s conference. One intensive on Creating Person Centered Life in Assisted Living, and then I also joined Jay Newton-Small, the CEO and founder of MemoryWell, to present a session on how life story telling can improve care and create connections for those living with dementia.
Together we outlined what is, perhaps the most vitally, important tool in the provision of person-centered care. Earlier this year, the Alzheimer’s Association announced its Dementia Care Practice Recommendations, which focus on person-centered care and the importance of life stories. Knowing the person and honoring the individual and their unique history, talents and passions allows us to offer meaningful programming that supports the identity of each resident.
Everyone has a story to tell, but not everyone can tell it.
Research published in the journal Aging & Mental Health points to how life stories allow care partners to see the person behind the diagnosis. They enable the voice of the person living with dementia to be heard and encourage the details about the life they’ve lived to be well-known. When care partners know the life story of a person living with dementia, they can make deeper connections and form more meaningful relationships.
Without a well-known life story, a person living with dementia can feel like they don’t belong and can lack a sense of purpose or connection to the community that surrounds them. If a person’s routines, habits, preferences and personal styles are not followed they may not be receptive to assistance and support with care.
Life stories are the most powerful tool we have for providing person-centered programming.
They allow care partners to integrate a person’s history, skills, and interests into engagement opportunities. Knowing the person and the details of their life gives us the tools we need to truly care partner with them, and can help us to provide purposeful engagement. It also helps us understand their family systems, and how to anticipate unmet needs in order to problem solve behavioral expressions.
Brookdale developed a great tool to help person’s living with dementia to begin the process of sharing their life story with care partners. An Inspired Life: A Journal Helping Me Live Well with Dementia is designed for people living with dementia to put their feelings on paper so care providers and family members can have an open and honest conversation about what is important to provide from the person’s own perspective as the disease progresses. If you are living with dementia, or are caring for a loved one who is, download An Inspired Life: A Journal for Helping Me Live Well with Dementia. This valuable resource can help you have an honest and open conversation about the important things that make you uniquely you!
Brookdale’s person-centered care focuses on sustaining individual interests, skills and talents to give meaning to each person’s life. Our care strategy is based around honoring a person’s life story, so we can truly KNOW them. That’s the way we provide a culture of caring and programming that puts the person living with dementia at the center of everything we do. We believe that the person you are before the diagnosis of dementia is the person you deserve to be after.