Ann Wyatt, Manager of Palliative & Residential Care
As we all know, in these hard, sad days for the country, people living in nursing homes have been hit particularly hard, with terrible loss of life, and a degree of isolation that is truly unimaginable.
For nursing homes, the challenge has been to keep people safe and to do whatever possible to help residents be as comfortable as possible in the midst of great stress. Nursing homes have been working to normalize routines and to find ways to minimize the isolation experienced by residents who are now disconnected from their families and even from other residents. The challenge is especially difficult for people with dementia because they often no longer recognize staff because of all the necessary protective gear.
In homes, most helpful for residents is the re-establishment of normal, comfortable routines, and as much contact with families and friends as possible. If residents have to move, whether to another room or another unit, it is essential that the new staff understand not only daily care needs, but also the specific routines and preferences that bring the most comfort.
In some situations, the stress in the environment may recall for residents past times when they experienced trauma (floods, fires, military service, etc.); here again, the goal is comfort, and helping residents feel safe.
Finally, CaringKind had originally scheduled a conference on Pain and Dementia for June, which we moved to this fall and reformatted into a four-part webinar series, now available on our website: caringkindnyc.org/pain
Issues covered include the importance of understanding pain for people with dementia, tools for assessing pain, drug and non-drug options for preventing or minimizing pain, and health disparity and cultural competence considerations. It is important for caregivers to remember that behavioral expressions are signals of distress, and people with later stages of dementia communicate their distress through their behavior, rather than words. Pain is often undiagnosed and untreated for people with dementia and is often a cause of their distress.