By Shelley Matthes RN-BC, BSN, RAC-CT, Director of Quality Improvement, Ecumen
Listening . . . it is such an important part of dementia care. From listening comes collaboration. Both are essential to meeting needs of the people who entrust us in their care. I want to share an example from Lori Olson, our colleague and Director of Nursing at Sunnyside Nursing Home in Lake Park, MN. Sunnyside is an Ecumen-managed community. One of our residents – I’ll call him Joe – is in the early- to mid-stages of Alzheimer’s and loves to walk outside. He’s always loved to walk outside. Too often, though, nursing homes don’t accommodate that desire due to a person’s penchant to wander and the liability that can come with that In walking with Joe outside, it became clear that Joe would much rather walk alone, as he always has. So we discussed, “How do we do that?” Joe said that he feels very comfortable walking if there are visual cues – actual stop signs – that help guide him in a few areas of his travels. Based on his insights, we created red stop signs (pictured above) at areas he directed. Joe enjoys his walk around our site outdoors and follows the cues that he helped us develop. He gets the “alone” time he wants with the outdoors. There will no doubt be a time where we’ll have to adjust this strategy. But the “easy” default would have been to simply say “no” to Joe or be with him every step of the way, which he didn't want. Listening . . . it often leads to solutions.