A more holistic approach to dementia care

By HBH - 7 August 2019

A more holistic approach to dementia care

with Chris Dunlop, Head of Nursing, and Anila Govind, Registered Nurse and Head of Nursing for the Minerva community

Principle 7 of the Eden Alternative focuses on medical treatment and the service of human caring. It aims to complement the role of prescription drugs and work towards pursuing a more holistic approach for residents with dementia and other issues.

HBH Senior Living has a long history of providing an exceptional level of medical care. Today, we complement that with the Eden alternative, which offers a more holistic approach.

Chris Dunlop, HBH Senior Living’s Director of Nursing, has worked at HBH for 39 years. She explains how they incorporate Principle 7 into daily care, in many ways.

“Eden means you look through different eyes,” she explains. “Rather than immediately providing medication to ease discomfort or behaviour, we look at our residents as a whole person and ask, ‘why is he or she behaving in this way?’ or, ‘what’s the reason behind it?’”

Dementia and the behaviour that ensues can be very challenging for staff. “I’m always encouraging staff to think beyond what they see and to consider what it would be like if you were in this situation” says Chris.

“If a resident lashes out, it may be because they’re feeling miserable or frustrated – they’re not themselves. It’s very sad for a husband, wife or children to see their loved one behaving out of character, but when we all work more holistically, we can make real progress. We try to help families understand why they’re like that, and provide them with tools so that they can have meaningful relationships with their loved one.”

Involving residents more in daily life and keeping them active and stimulated is an important part of the Eden philosophy – and it also applies to dementia care. “Eden is very much about working in partnership with residents, rather than telling them what to do,” explains Chris. “Often if people are in discomfort or having challenges, involving and engaging them is a great antidote. It takes their mind off things and creates opportunities for them to contribute.”

Anila, a Registered Nurse at HBH for 22 years, agrees. “While we might have given medicine in the past to deal with these behaviours, we now consider a different set of options due to Eden. For example, inviting a resident to take on a role (such as helping to look after the budgies), or to accompany one of our carers to help with some tasks such as giving out clean towels or helping give out morning or afternoon tea. These things help to ensure they have a sense of purpose.”

One example Chris cites is a recent family meeting where a resident’s daughter said, “Mum’s life has been transformed by buttering the bread, she feels she has a role and enjoys helping the staff ” Another example is a gentleman who hadn’t spoken or communicated in any way to his family for two years before coming to HBH Senior Living. His wife has observed how different he has been since arriving here. She commented that HBH staff treat him like a normal person, communicating with him quite differently to staff in previous facilities.

“It can take a while, but gradually we start to see improvements,” says Anila. “For example, one of our residents had had a severe stroke and wouldn’t leave her room. We talked with her about trying different options and suggested that she have one of her meals in the dining room. She resisted at first but agreed to give it a try and started with lunch. She enjoyed it so much she is now also having dinner with the other residents.

Lisa Waldren