WMC’s dementia care program helps to see the person
A dementia diagnosis may cause patients and families alike to question the future. Although there is no cure for dementia, there are ways to cope to help patients maintain a good quality of life and provide family and friends with meaningful ways to help.
Winneshiek Medical Center is pleased to introduce a new program to the community: WMC’s Dementia Care Program. The only program of its kind in our region, WMC’s Dementia Care provides specific strategies for families and caregivers to implement as their loved ones reach new stages of dementia. WMC’s Dementia Care program is designed by Winneshiek Medical Center occupational therapist Lori Shindelar, OTR/L, and certified occupational therapy assistant Bridget White, COTA/L.
Lori says, “Through an assessment with the patient and his or her family, occupational therapy staff create a customized program to help ‘see the person’ in all stages of dementia.”
Seeing the person
Halley Wise and Ann Mansfield, both registered nurses, have experienced the benefits of WMC’s Dementia Care Program as they and their brothers provide care for their mother, Maddy Wise. “Mom has later stage dementia,” says Ann. “When Bridget began working with her, she uncovered the person behind the mask of dementia. She showed us how to connect with Mom in ways that bring us all joy.” In addition to working with patients and families, occupational therapists assist primary caregivers to understand the uniqueness of each individual.
“Each patient has a story to discover,” says Bridget. “For example, Maddy loves the music from her teenage years. We were able to identify that interest, and Maddy’s family provided her with an iPod with her favorite songs from that era. It is heartwarming to see Maddy gently dancing to the music with a content smile on her face.”
“Mom also loves the smell of freshly brewed coffee,” adds Halley. “The anticipation of her morning coffee can help her to join the breakfast table each day. With the help of therapy and the techniques we’ve learned from Bridget, we have grown to embrace each stage of Mom’s diagnosis, and it is comforting to us to see her enjoy her life.”
Bridget explains that if families seek therapy early, patients can have input into their care plan, instead of caregivers trying to fill in the pieces later. She says, “We can adapt activities to their ability level because we’ll know what is meaningful to them, and this can improve their quality of life in all stages of dementia.”
Ann adds, “It is comforting for a family to know that their loved one had a chance to form a plan that would help them as they become more vulnerable.”
One hurdle of a dementia diagnosis is overcoming the associated stigma. Halley says, “Some people are in denial or are afraid to talk about the diagnosis. I look at dementia like a diagnosis of any other disease – for instance diabetes, heart disease or COPD. To ensure quality of life, you need treat the disease and learn how to care for the person. It’s the same with dementia.”
The WMC Dementia Care Program helped the Wise family understand the changes their mother was dealing with and how different strategies for communication and care could help Maddy cope most effectively and maintain her activities of daily living as long as possible. Ann says, “Bridget helped shift our thinking from providing mom ‘dementia care’ to creating the most optimal daily living conditions for her as long as we could. The process of working with Bridget helped us see this journey with our mom in an entirely different light. Bridget’s guidance has optimized our ability as a family to better understand dementia and provide ideal support.”
“Although the conversation may be difficult, it is incredibly important to see your health care provider as soon as signs of dementia begin to surface,” says Robert Flinchbaugh, D.O., Mayo Clinic Health System family medicine physician and Chief Medical Officer at Winneshiek Medical Center. “Education regarding the progression of dementia and early dementia therapy can alleviate many of the concerns and barriers caregivers feel when interacting with their loved one in new and different ways.”
Is the WMC Dementia Program Covered by Insurance?
WMC’s Dementia Care Program is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurances. It is important to check with your insurance carrier before beginning services. The program is available to anyone who has been diagnosed with dementia, whether they live in their own home or in a long term care facility. For more information on WMC’s Dementia Care Program, talk to your primary care provider, or call the Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine department at 563-387-3031. Information is also available online at www.winmedial.org/dementia.