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Dementia remains a very real presence in senior living, as millions of Americans are affected by the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that, as the illness continues to lead to increasing demand for senior care, the need for understanding the cognitive disease is paramount. According to CDC, up to 5.3 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer's disease with that number projected to more than double by 2050.
Sunrise Senior Living addresses the needs of people with memory loss or people with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia through its Reminiscence Program with the use of Validation Techniques, which encourage more meaningful communication with those with more advanced memory loss. Rita Altman, Sunrise's vice president of Memory Care and Programming, spoke with the Washington Post, recalling a touching interaction she had with a Sunrise resident diagnosed with advanced dementia. The resident was holding her hands as though she was carrying a baby. Altman gave the resident a baby doll to hold as they softly hummed a lullaby together. Altman explained to the news provider that the baby doll helped provide the resident with a sense of validation, or the reassurance that her feelings were being understood.
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"By providing the resident with the doll and acknowledging how much she loved to take care of babies, I validated her feelings and helped to fulfill her basic human need to express love, and nurture or care for a child," Altman said. "We know that deep down she knows it is a doll and that providing a doll is never enough. We also need to make that human connection. By using empathy along with some Validation Techniques, we can provide meaning and purpose to residents, even those in the later stages of memory loss."
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Sunrise Senior Living's Alzheimer's & Memory Care Program works to treat residents with the comforting feelings of a familiar environment. Altman is not alone in addressing resident needs, as all Sunrise team members are trained to recognize each individual's unique needs. Sunrise has the distinction as an Authorized Validation Organization, and its staff uses Validation in order to encourage stronger communication between Sunrise residents with dementia and their caregivers. For family members and at-home caregivers interested in learning more about Validation Techniques, Altman recommends the online self-guided study, Journey of Discovery.
By empathetically treating each resident individually, Sunrise team members are cognizant of the issues that those in dementia care must face. This kind of understanding can help the individual feel more at ease, potentially leading to a better quality of life.
In addition to using Validation Techniques, Sunrise maintains Individualized Service Plans (ISPs) for each resident with memory loss, detailing their specific needs and preferences. Depending on the resident, Sunrise team members can assist with social engagement, medication management, eating and other programming and activities he or she is involved in at the community.
To read the full Washington Post article, click here.