Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care at The Nathaniel Witherell: Q and A with Jayne Kennelly, Nurse Manager, and Lynn Bausch, Director of Nursing

The greatest known risk factor for dementia is advancing age. Most individuals with the disease are age 65 or older, and dementia incidence doubles every 5 years from age 65 on. Because we’re all living longer, this explains why various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, are so prevalent.

The Nathaniel Witherell specializes in caring for people with these conditions. Residents with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia-related illnesses reside in the Witherell’s “Camelot” unit, where they enjoy a secure, warm, and open home-like environment, with their own living and dining rooms, and a staff of full-time recreation therapists who conduct resident activities throughout the day.

What is meant by “person-centered care” and why is it emphasized at the Witherell?

JK: We focus on each individual’s wants and needs because it helps maintain our residents’ well-being by giving them a sense of having control. Here, we listen to their voices and preferences. A well-coordinated, 24-hour program is in place for every resident here that considers every aspect of his/her daily medical and personal needs. Not only are important issues such as pain and medication management considered, so are the resident’s every day personal care and dining needs.

What are some of the different types of activities that the residents like to be involved with?

LB: We like to encourage each resident to participate in the activities that they’d most like to do. The goal is to respect their wishes and let them be as autonomous as possible. One person may want to go to Zumba, while another would prefer to chat with a fellow resident or a staff member, and there are some who would prefer a word or card game. Other activities that we offer include arts and crafts, cooking/baking classes, gardening, games, religious services, and spiritual programs. The new addition to our diverse music program is a karaoke machine. The residents are very interactive and sing along with recorded music using a microphone. This really makes them feel special! And they are special because at the Nathaniel Witherell we believe that every life is important.

What are some of the extras offered to improve the lives of your residents?

JK: We strongly believe in therapeutic communication – simple gestures like eye contact, handholding, and calm reassurances let residents know that you are there to help them. Recently, we developed an “Adopt a Resident” program, which encourages staff, volunteers, and family to take a resident under their wings and provide a few minutes out of their busy day to sit, listen, walk, or perhaps have lunch. It is so rewarding to observe how happy this makes our residents.

How are their families included in residents’ care?

LB: Families are welcomed and encouraged to become part of the care team here. We want loved ones to visit as often as possible; it really enhances the home-like environment. We also have family picnics and parties throughout the year, which are a big hit with our residents.

For more information on Alzheimer’s and dementia-related illness care at The Nathaniel Witherell, click here.

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