Debbie’s Blog

Why are we talking about Compassionate Care?

Debbie Selsavage1Why are we talking about “person-centered compassionate care?” Aren’t our care institutions in the United States already compassionate enough toward Alzheimer’s and dementia patients?

In a word. “NO!

While we learn more and more on a scientific level about the brain and how it works, on the social level – the human level where sufferers of dementia tragically live – our understanding is, in my opinion, woefully deficient. Many of our elder care institutions and care-giving families treat their Alzheimer’s and dementia patients like “old folks who can’t behave.”

Degrees in nursing can be earned with little or no training about dementia and why it causes certain behaviors. Many in our medical community do not understand that the sensory deficiencies, confusion, fear, and paranoia that dementia patients experience can be the cause of their behavior.

We realize that dementia patients are not going to get better, but we do not devote much study to how their inner and outer lives can be made more peaceful and fulfilling by our behavior while they are on this journey. Dementia patients are not stupid. They are living with a progressive loss of brain function affecting their senses and memory. They have enough on their hands to cope with this, and -believe it or not- they are really not out to make our lives a living hell.

Rather, I believe that in many cases these tables are turned. Through our ignorance, lack of understanding, and impatience, it is often we who are making their lives a living hell. Through our inability to accept and understand their reality, we actually provoke much of our loved one’s annoying behavior. To many, that will sound far-fetched, but it is not.

We also focus too much on what dementia patients are losing. Care regimens do not often focus on how to get the best results from the abilities they still have. We need to spend more time in a positive study of the remaining abilities that we can use to help bridge the gulf of communication, rather than dwelling on the negatives that shut us out.

I believe the foundation of better dementia care does not rest only in science and medicine, but rather in a faculty that we learn from our mothers very early in life. This is love and understanding expressed through compassion. Sound too sappy and simplistic? I assure you it is not, and there are many examples of success stories around us.

It is a strongly-held belief in American business that when you do more (or do it differently), it is likely to cost you more. So, in the protection of the almighty bottom line, we just do not give some of the leading-edge methodologies a chance. We think status quo works just fine, so we stick to it. But it isn’t working just fine, and new understandings and interpersonal methods are called for.

I could go on about person-centered compassionate care through a Positive Approach to Care, but I won’t. There is so much literature out there through which I can make my point. I have placed on this page, and will add to it form time to time, the things I read and discover that make the case for the new and higher standards of person-centered compassionate care.

You’ll find here a Stanford University study that shows that compassionate care can actually result in longer lives, reduced medication, higher staff morale, less staff turnover, improved efficiency, and better profitability. No kidding, every corporate executive and every facility administration in the medical field should read this study.

There are also videos that prove the effectiveness of person-centered compassionate care and new ways of communication that can break through and result in a better quality of life.

Please take the time to read or view them. The proof for person-centered compassionate care is out there if we just choose to see it. Please click into my blog below to learn more.