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Dignity (and Smiles) Through Empowerment

Providing interactions and experiences for folks living with dementia that are rooted in fostering a sense of independence, empowerment and dignity can truly make an incredible difference in their emotional well-being. As Jack York has learned and passed on to many of us in the senior care community, just “being real with them” is often all it takes to put a smile on their face.

Managing Daily Life with Dementia

One of the ways experts assess older adults’ ability to live independently is whether they are able to manage Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) without assistance. ADLs are the basic self-care tasks that we have been able to do since early childhood – things like walking, eating, dressing, being able to move our bodies into different positions and handling basic hygiene needs. IADLs are a bit more complex and involve things we typically learn to on the path to becoming independent as young adults. Activities such as paying bills, driving, shopping, cooking, house related duties, communication and medication management.

For those with dementia, the ability to manage ADLs and/or IADLs is compromised, even at the earliest stages of the condition. For example, those in the early states of dementia often need some type of assistance with IADLs. This reliance on help and gradual decline in ability to complete daily tasks safely and independently continue as the condition progresses, often necessitating the transition to a senior living community or full-time caregivers.

This decline in the ability to do the things that were once simple tasks can be demeaning, scary and depressing. Recently, our president and founder, Jack York, detailed a particularly enlightening experience for McKnight’s in which he spent several days “just hanging out” with two gentlemen living with dementia. Together, they played games, enjoyed cooking meals and explored the great outdoors and local best venues in Denver. What he learned is that, while the sense of hopelessness that comes with dementia is very real, it’s not the only dimension to individuals living with the condition.

“Over the last 20 years I have seen remarkable strides in senior living when it comes to dining, staffing, bathing, physical layouts of rooms, etc.  But often times you will still see residents living with dementia plopped in front of a television with no meaningful engagement offered to them. Give people meaningful engagement to them, regardless of where they are physically and cognitively, and you’ll be shocked at the positive outcomes you will see.”

This concept is the inspiration behind the latest content experience in our suite of person-centered engagement technology solutions. The Engage Drive Simulator quite literally puts seniors back in the driver’s seat, enjoying the freedom that comes from being at the wheel. The Drive Simulator is a safe way to bring a feeling of control back to individuals, whether they enjoy fast cars or simply miss the relaxation of a Sunday drive.

It’s such a simple experience, but so powerful. Watching residents light up while they interact with our Drive Simulator has been so incredibly rewarding. Dignity (and smiles) through empowerment. Read more about one special resident’s Drive Simulator experience here.

If you’d like to make the Engage Drive Simulator available for your residents, fill out our contact form.

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