It was something that Terra Osbourne, DCCCP at The Summit at Park Hills, had seen before. An elderly person had started to pull inward, and their loved ones assumed that the deterioration was irreversible. But Terra knew something could be done, that it was still possible to engage with the individual and help family members continue to interact with and care for their loved one.

Why Dementia Care Matters

At the community where Terra worked, there was an assisted living side and a memory care side. Part of Terra’s job was to help assisted living staff recognize when a resident was exhibiting early signs of dementia. The last thing they wanted was for someone to get “lost in the shuffle” in the assisted living side when there was a memory care side that could enhance the quality of life for those living with dementia while also preserving their dignity.

Jay* was one of those residents. She came to the community from her home with signs of early-stage dementia. As so often happens, her family was unaware that at this early stage, affected individuals often try to mask their dementia symptoms. This also made it tough to figure out which side of the care community she best fit into.

Her family wasn’t ready to accept that she needed memory care—and neither was Jay.

It quickly became clear that assisted living wasn’t the best fit for Jay. She stayed in her room without any TV or radio, didn’t open the blinds, and rarely turned on the lights. She didn’t like to get out of bed because she wasn’t aware of the time of day and didn’t know how to follow a calendar. When she did come out of her room, she couldn’t follow along with the assisted living activities.

Jay also argued with staff about going to meals and then showed up for them randomly throughout the day. She was also resistant to care—refusing baths or changing clothes.

But these weren’t new challenges. She’d masked many of these behaviors prior to coming to Park Hills. This had led her family to believe she didn’t truly need memory care services. They often shared, “She has always been private.” But Terra knew that Jay’s actions were far more than just an attempt at being private.

Jay was displaying clear signs of early-stage dementia. Terra and her rehab director had many discussions about how Jay would flourish if living in the memory care side.

Using Dementia Capable Care to Empower Patients

Terra and her rehab director eventually had the opportunity to talk with Jay’s daughter. They shared their vision for how Jay could still engage in a fulfilling and positive life through the enhancements of Dementia Capable Care training.

Jay’s daughter listened, and before long brought in other family members to learn more about the care options available in the memory care unit at Park Hills. They decided that the best option was to transition Jay to the memory care unit.

Jay adjusted well to her new environment. With support, she developed her own routines that worked to meet her needs.

There are still moments of struggle, but Terra and her co-workers are able to work with Jay to improve her wellbeing.

Terra shared that Jay now smiles at others and occasionally talks with people she knows. By simply adjusting her care, Jay was able to live a much more comfortable, purposeful life. Changes like this are possible when staff are properly trained in how to recognize, care for, and speak up for the needs of individuals living with dementia.

See how your facility can change lives by providing your staff with CPI training:

Find Training

*Not her real name to protect family privacy.

Originally published in 2017.