Happy March! Spring is right around the corner and I could not be more excited!
This month I want to write about a specific approach to dementia care that has gained recognition and support throughout the community-The Best Friends ™ Approach.
The Alzheimer Society of Calgary is non-profit organization that is a goldmine of support for individuals and their families who have been affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. They address everything from information on how these diseases impact daily life to navigating you and your loved ones to services or resources tailored to your needs.
I wanted to zoom in on one area of the support they offer, Club 36. Club 36 is an adult day program for individuals living with dementia to explore activities focused on independence and more importantly, fun! Specialized physical activity, baking, and music therapy are amongst some of programming they can look forward to. It also provides caregivers with a peace of mind during respite and a link to all that the community has to offer.
Website Link: http://www.alzheimercalgary.ca/find-support/respite-for-caregivers/about-club-36
The facilitating team ensures a compassionate environment to socialize and thrive by using the Best Friends™ Approach. It is important to note that this method was developed by two experts in the field and is backed by evidence-based research. Its philosophy stands out by promoting what everyone deserves, person-centered care. From what I understand, this allows the individual to be heard when it comes to their care. Here are a few things that made me understand and appreciate the Best Friends™ Approach:
- The developers have first hand experience with what works and what is essential in this community. They are also not limited and have reached out to collaborate with caregivers on a global scale.
- Staff can feel comfortable and effective using this method due to comprehensive training that clearly outlines their key elements- Dementia Bill of Rights, the Life Story, the Knack, and the art of Communication.
- The Dementia Bill of Rights ensures compassion, empathy, and dignity to any individual living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. I really admire that significance is placed on the person-their awareness of the situation, their story, and what they truly enjoy. It also takes into account activities of daily life that need to stay present and make individuals feel like they are part of their community.
- The Life Story validates what individuals have experienced in their past. Relationships need to be established to acknowledge each person’s subjective story and hear what they want to share. In turn, this can encourage more recognition and reminiscing by individuals living with dementia. Bonds can become stronger between a person and their care partner when individuals feel acceptance and a sense of belonging.
- “Knack”: knowledge, nurturing, approach, community, and kinship. How clever! I love this acronym that can be a quick and useful reminder of your given skillset to deal with any situation. A few elements of this are using humor, maintaining patience, taking care of oneself, and planning ahead.
- Last but not least, the communication element. In my opinion, this is a key factor and improving one’s communication skill can enhance their work and relationships significantly. A few of the principles Best Friends ™ highlights include using repetition, using positive language, and creating an environment that facilitates good communication.
All in all, it seems that the caregivers who incorporate elements of the Best Friends ™ approach into their practice really make it about the individual and their right to a high quality of life. This type of goal is what I like to see at places and programs such as Club 36.
To get more insight into this topic, grab the book or scope out the website that also offers some free resources: http://bestfriends.healthpropress.com/free-resources/
For more information on Club 36 or about The Alzheimer Society of Calgary visit: http://www.alzheimercalgary.ca/find-support/respite-for-caregivers/about-club-36