How’s the food?
I take each question I am asked very seriously, and this one is at the top of the list. Meeting the most basic needs of those who depend on Coventry for consistent and professional care, is our top priority; and ensuring that the meals we provide are nutritious, seasonally-appropriate, and most of all appetizing, must be a priority as well. I am proud to say that Coventry, and our management partner, Ebenezer, succeed at this most crucial goal every day.
Ebenezer’s stated values are Dignity, Integrity, Service, Compassion, and Innovation. These values are reflected in the effort that our culinary professionals put into menu planning. As you can see from the menu in the slideshow, there is something for every resident, every day. In addition to the technically balanced and nutritionally appropriate choices each day, there is a lot of variety. People living in our community can choose from a selection of light salads and soups, to a wide array of regional and ethnic favorites. We honor the dignity of those who depend on us by exceeding their expectations daily with delicious offerings from our dedicated staff.
Integrity and Compassion
One way I know that our meals are something our clients look forward to, rather than merely technically adequate, is the quiet calm that descends over our community when people are sitting down to their breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Our chef and her staff painstakingly execute the planned menus with such attention to quality that our residents consider every one of their meals home-cooked. The culinary staff lives our company values daily serving our clients with integrity and compassion.
Ability to Choose
I was inspired to write this post today from an unusual source. I was in our dining room and watched a Care Attendant offering the alternative menu to a resident. It occurred to me that having alternatives is just one of the ways we honor our clients’ ability to choose. It would seem that chicken fajitas (with delicious onions, peppers, and Mexican rice) were slightly more adventurous than he was feeling today. Without blinking, the Care Attendant offered a cup of tomato soup, retrieved an alternative menu, and pointed out that there were options available including hamburgers, sandwiches, and salads.
As the Outreach & Sales Director, it is my number one priority to inform the public what makes Coventry the best choice for Senior living in Mahtomedi. I can state confidently that our culinary services are something that we do well with consistency and respect.
“How’s the food?”
If you have ever surfed websites of senior housing options, I bet you have frequently run into the term “person-centered care” which we owe to Dr. Thomas Kitwood, a British physician who focused on the importance of remembering that a person with dementia is first and foremost a PERSON with particular needs, challenges, strengths and preferences.
Cannot expect persons with dementia to think like we do
It is also due to Dr. Kitwood’s brilliant work that nurses are no longer trained to try to orient persons with dementia to reality, e.g., “No, no, Mrs. Jones, it’s 2017 now – actually your mother is dead, and the farm has been sold!” Thank goodness for Tom Kitwood! He helped us understand that we cannot expect persons with dementia to think like we do. As I’ve heard nursing home operator and author Megan Carnarius say, “We need to cross to their side of the street.” People with dementia simply cannot come over to ours. We need to give them responses that make sense with the way in which they understand the world.
Dementia expert Elion Caspi encourages us to also think about dementia care as “relationship-based care.” If we do not maintain relationship and genuine connection with persons with dementia, trust wears thin. As a result, it becomes challenging for persons with dementia to accept the care they need.
Lost in the grief
It is completely understandable that care partners are exhausted. They often get caught up in the grief of losing the precise relationship they had with their loved one before dementia was part of the picture. All too often, people become angry and bitter, even to the point of saying things such as “Alzheimer’s is worse than death.” That is a direct quote from the despondent husband of a wonderfully clever woman; let’s call her “Pam,” with whom I worked for some years. What a heartbreaking pronouncement from her husband! At this point, Pam still loved to share opinions and insight, sing Broadway tunes, reminisce, walk, dance, and hold hands.
A person is NOT their Alzheimer's disease any more than a person who has cancer is their cancer!
Those of us who have had family members with dementia or other progressive diseases do understand from whence that sentiment arises. However, it is ultimately not a helpful one. Nor is it accurate. It implies that we might as well give up on a person who is still very much alive. This could not be further from the truth. A person is NOT their Alzheimer’s disease any more than a person who has cancer IS their cancer. The person, an intact spiritual being, is still there, though many of their needs have changed dramatically. We do our loved ones a disservice if we refuse to rise to the occasion of their increased needs.
Maintain connections along the way
There are many gifts to be gained by accepting where the person is at, through each and every phase of their dementia experience. There is connection to maintain all along the way. How we connect will vary with different types and different phases of dementia, but in general, smiling, eye contact, gentle touch and approach, curiosity, acceptance of where the person is, conversation about things that are meaningful to the person, sharing laughter, singing, enjoying simple pleasures, giving compliments, promoting calm, validating the person’s feelings, doing things just the way the person likes, making things easier for them, reminiscing, having fun together, sparking creativity, enjoying humor….well, the list of what can be done to maintain a healthy, nurturing relationship goes on and on.
Responding to the world from an earlier developmental time
In short, we can treat the person like a PERSON, and remember that even though this person is losing skills, even though this person may enjoy and indeed benefit from things that children like, this person is still an adult who is simply responding to the world from an earlier developmental time. This person still has strengths and skills we must actively encourage and appreciate in order for them to have a meaningful life.
Language is powerful
Did you notice that I’ve been using the term “care partner” rather than “caregiver?” Language is powerful. When the relationship between a person with dementia and someone caring for them is viewed more as a partnership, what’s implied is that both persons have something to give. Think about it…What might persons with dementia still have to offer us, their care partners?
Some bonds remain unbreakable
They can give valuable input as to what they like and what they don’t like. They can lend us wisdom from past experience; they can share memories of olden days, with humor and perspective. They can inspire us with their courage and resilience. They can give us love. In this process, we may be surprised at how flexible our own capacity to love may become. Even in the late stage of their dementia, our loved one may remind us how some bonds remain unbreakable. Caring for persons with dementia may give us more patience and more appreciation for wordless communication and for life than we’ve ever known.
We are in this together
Thinking about our relationship as a partnership will help make us more open to a person’s participation and input. We just might respect, value and love this person all the more. We are not the same as this person, and we have each been impacted by dementia and changed forever in vastly different ways, but surely we are in this together.
--Marysue Moses, Ebenezer Dementia Care Program Coordinator