Receiving a diagnosis of dementia can be traumatic for both the person being diagnosed and family members. With no known cause and no cure, it’s a major cause of death that can’t be prevented, can’t be cured and for most people, can’t be slowed down. Memory loss and changes in behaviour are often the first signposts that a difficult journey lies ahead. Some of the personality shifts which are a symptom of the disease–agitation, wandering, and aggression, along with other complex behaviours–cause most of the distress for the person affected by dementia and for the family members and caregivers who experience those changes. Dementia can cause unpredictable and unprovoked verbal and physical aggression in some individuals which can escalate to a level that traditional care centres are unable to manage and the person is eventually evicted. The only option left is a hospital, which is not ideal for someone with dementia as the staff does not have the expertise or time to provide what is needed for these patients.
Unique in Southern Alberta
In 1987, Bethany began offering the MDE Program (Managing Dementia by Expertise), designed as a transitional program to stabilize these aggressive behaviours. The goal is for the resident to then move to a more traditional care centre. The only program of its kind in Southern Alberta, the MDE Program is staffed by people who are highly skilled and experienced in working with people with complex dementia. There are three phases to the program–Assessment, Stabilization and Transition. The length of stay depends on behaviours stabilizing and becoming predictable. As the MDE Program team works with each resident, an individual care plan is developed based on behaviour modification and approaches which will create success for that person.
“If that unique care plan is followed to a ’T,’ when the resident transitions to a more traditional care centre he or she will be content and peaceful,” says Janine Ollenberger RN, BScN, Care Services Manager, MDE Program.
For many residents, their caregivers, and family members referral to the MDE Program can feel like the end of the road at first. Most have suffered many losses throughout the disease’s progression. The majority of caregivers have been thrust into the situation with little or no background in caring for someone with dementia. They are worried that if their loved one isn’t successful in the MDE Program, there will be no where else to go. When the stay at the Program ends, caregivers have regained hope and the person with dementia has gained a far better quality of life.
“There are two times caregivers and family members cry about the MDE Program,” says Ollenberger. “Once when their loved one first arrives here, and the second time, is when it’s time to transition out of the program.”