Juliet Holt Klinger, MA, Expert on Dementia Care

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20 July 2020

It’s been a rough few months but as people keep reminding me, there are silver linings to COVID-19. Maybe it’s helpful to share one of those now as we begin to look forward to a post-COVID world…or, as I like to say, our world with COVID (don’t ever give it top billing!).

Considering the positives in a pandemic is counterintuitive at best, but there truly are things to share that are worthy of discussion. I want to start with some thoughts closest to my heart and then, hopefully in subsequent blogs, I can share more of how Brookdale has coped and innovated around this challenge. The first positive lesson I have to share is that person centered care is not only the right thing to do, it can help save lives. With its foundation in the maintenance of human connection and relationships, you might think that the very bedrock of person centeredness was threatened during this time of isolation and social distancing—but it really was further validated.

At the heart of person centered living is the relationship that develops when two people (in our case two people involved in a care partnership) truly know each other and bring an authentic concern for their connection to the relationship. One steadfast tenet of person centered dementia care is the support for consistent assignment—some say dedication—of care partners. The concept is that the same care associates work with the same residents, day in and day out. I’m proud to say Brookdale has committed to this tenet for well over a decade in our Clare Bridge dementia care communities. This really matters and never has it mattered more than in the past few months.

Consistent assignment and the continued development of care partnerships between our associates and residents is the magic that enables us so often to identify early, very subtle symptoms of this horrible virus. We are able to notice signs unique to that person that tell us when things may be just a little off, when their eyes reflect a change, when the smile is a little less robust, the handhold a little more weak. We know because we know them.

These relationships, this care that our Clare Bridge care associates feel for our residents, has also driven their dedication and presence during this crisis, despite some real and perceived risks. I recently heard about how a care associate in one of our Brookdale communities stepped up to work extra shifts when her fellow associate fell ill because, as she said, “I won’t let my residents go through this without me. I’m the one they trust—they know me.” Over and over again, I have listened to tales of the powerful shared experiences of associates weathering the storm of the pandemic together with their residents because they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. The care, the dedication, and the determination to be together is the best example of person centered care and the best silver lining I could ever ask for.

Person centered care is absolutely the right thing to do.

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