Thursday, November 8, 2012

Life Enrichment First!

A few years ago, the memory care community I was working at, switched all their care plans and documentation to a new computer program.  As they were making the switch they were asking for feedback from those whom used it the most.  It was fun to play around with it and put in my input.  I always like to put in my input.  There were lots of little things we tweaked and added to make if fit our community better. Then, because I had the opportunity, I voiced a more dramatic change I had been dreaming about for years and it seems others had too.  So here is the back story.
When I started working in Memory Care I was part of the Life Enrichment team.  This is a new term for being part of the activities team.  It is a much better name because they do much more than plan simple activities.  If they are doing it well they are planning meaningful activities that do enrich the lives of the residents.  It was a fun way to start out in this field.  I got to know the residents very well, their desires, their frustrations and because of that I feel like I was better able to coordinate their care needs as the Memory Care Coordinator (MCC).
One of my biggest frustrations as a Life Enrichment team member was when new residents would move in and the Nurse, Resident Service Coordinator (RSC) or MCC would do the assessment and they would inevitably get maybe 2 or 3 pieces of information about the person.  Their likes and dislikes, current or previous hobbies, past careers, number of children and so on.  Not because these people were bad people that didn't care.  They were amazing people who did care but who had a lot of information to collect in a short window of time in order to meet the immediate physical needs of the resident.  Then one day I was the MCC and I was doing assessments and writing care plans.  Now I can tell you from first hand experience that by the time you got to the part of the assessment where it asked all the bio information you were worn out.  It was easy to think, we will get that information later.  I always did get it later at the 30 day or quarterly care conferences. But still always thought, wouldn't it be nice for us to collect that information first.  I could have simply started with that section even though it was at the end.  Still I did not.
As time continued and I attended conferences and trainings on person centered care and other similar approaches. The common theme was until you know the person as an individual you can't give them the proper care they deserve.  Especially in Memory Care.
I once brought huge relief to an anxious resident who needed desperately to get out so she could get to the children.  This resident was a teacher and principal her whole life.  She was never married and never had kids.  The school children were her kids.  If I had not know this about her I would probably assume she was looking for her children and may not have responded correctly.  However, because I did know, I told her it was Saturday and that there was no school today.  She let out a huge sigh because she had been trying to figure a way out for hours, looked me straight in the eyes, "oh, I am so glad you told me."
This personal information is so valuable.  
Even though I knew a lot about each resident I often walked out of funeral services wishing I would have known some of the things shared at that person's funeral while they were still living.  I wish when I asked questions about the person I would have gotten more information from the families.  Again, not at the fault of the families, everyone with a loved one with dementia is just trying to keep their heads above water, living in continual mourning for the pieces of their loved one that are slowly being stripped away.
With all this in mind, and knowing that individuals aiming for success can either be hindered or aided by the systems that are in place I thought of a potential system change. The change that myself and others recommended was to put the Life Enrichment section first on the assessments and care plans.  However, because the programming of the new computer system was so far along and this change was too big of a change they couldn't do it at that time.
Two weeks ago I stopped by the community I used to work at and visited with 2 of the RSCs who told me that the new care plan and assessment is coming out and the Life Enrichment section is first!  I can't tell you how excited I am.  For the staff, nurses and caregivers both, to get to know the person first before they get to know them as a 2 person transfer who needs toileting assistance every 2 hours is just priceless.  I think this small systems change will impact the lives of the residents in ways we can't even imagine.
To top it all off they even added a new position, Transitions Coordinator.  This person will be in charge of collecting all the information we walk away from funerals wishing we had known sooner.  They will help families pause for a moment amongst the chaos of change to reflect on that persons life.  So that we can honor that life lived with loving care and provide moments of joy through out their day.  I don't know the person in this new role, but I hope they understand the weight of their task.
It is so amazing to see dreams come true.  When you are in the trenches daily it seems like it would be hard to see what a big victory this is.

No comments:

Post a Comment