Sheila Molony, an authority on aging, geriatric care and dementia assessment, is leading a national conversation about this issue, and her research is changing how health professionals, caregivers and families care for people with dementia. She was among 27 health-care experts whose research comprised the Alzheimer Associations’ 2018 Dementia Care Practice Recommendation Guidelines. This year she will be inducted as a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and as a Fellow for the American Academy of Nursing.
Improving the Lives of People with Dementia
There are more than 5.5 million people living with Alzheimer’s in the United States and that number is likely to double by 2050. Today, advances in research are changing how health professionals and caregivers care for people with dementia.
The key element is person-centered care, an approach that conveys respect, and prioritizes a person’s needs, values, routines, sources of joy and personal meaning. This philosophy is highlighted in the new Alzheimer’s Association Dementia Care Practice Guidelines.
One of the important concepts in my own research is At Homeness, the experience of feeling at home regardless of one’s situation, especially during transitions to assisted living or nursing homes. This feeling requires a sense of empowerment, choice, feelings of refuge or safety, connection to loved ones, and a sense of self.
Many nursing homes focus on choice, but the choices are often superficial rather than personally meaningful.
In some ways, home is a process. People who relocate or become ill grieve for the loss of at-homeness in their experience… and hope to feel at home again. The sense of home may be regained when new spaces become personal and people are able to envision a future for themselves in the new situation.
There is more to be done. We have developed a scale that measures at-homeness and are studying ways to predict or improve the process during transitions and in hospital settings.
When working with people with dementia, person-centered care focuses on what really matters. Even individuals with severe impairment can provide clues if we take the time to listen, and see what brings joy and light into their eyes.