How to Embrace the Future of Memory Care: Residents’ Committees

This article from Dr. Cameron J. Camp, Ph.D. talks about how to embrace the future of memory care – residents’ committees.

Baby boomers, either looking for a place for their parents or for themselves, will be making new demands on the senior care industry, especially in memory care.

Hearkening back to their days of wearing t-shirts saying “Question Authority,” Boomers will be demanding that they and their parents have much more control over their lives than is seen in current models of senior care.

Neither the hospital model, with its emphasis on caring for “patients” who have a “disease,” nor the hotel model, with the emphasis on “doing everything for our guest” will be acceptable.

Boomers will demand the same things in senior living and memory care that they want now – to live in a home, where they know and are known by their neighbors, and where they are part of a community with shared goals.

Boomers will want purpose in their activities, the ability to do good for others, to work collaboratively, and to be in relationship with other residents and staff. They also will want to maintain strong connections with the larger community and outside world.

One way this is being accomplished in memory care is by the creation of residents’ committees. Committee members are bound together by a shared sense of purpose and common goals. Accomplishments achieved by committees help establish a sense of community.

What the Future Looks Like

Imagine a memory care residence where new members of the community are greeted by a residents’ committee. The community also has ceremonies to commemorate the passing of residents. Community committees select exercise routines, outings, entertainment (including ways for residents to entertain themselves and others), what is planted and maintained in gardens, menu options, and activity schedules. Residents go to the hospital to visit with their friends from the community who are ill.

Libraries’ contents are selected and maintained by residents. Residents help set tables and put away dishes and silverware after meals. Residents decide what music is played in common areas, what is kept in community stores, what fan clubs to create for local sports teams, and what social concerns or charities they wish to support.

Residents decide on meeting times and locations for committees, what snacks and drinks will be served, agenda items, rules for discussing topics so that everyone is treated respectfully, and priorities for future action.

If these things all seem familiar – they are. They are the things that “normal” people – you and I – do now. We will not want to give these up because of a diagnosis. They represent a process called “normalization” as it relates to persons with memory impairment. By focusing on their capabilities rather than disabilities, applying techniques such as the use of external aids, Montessori methods of education, and cognitive rehabilitation procedures, residents can regain and retain capacity for independent living.

The role of staff members also changes. Instead of doing everything “for” residents, staff enable residents to do as much for themselves and each other as possible. When a staff member says, “Let me tell you what my residents were able to do today – without me,” you know that a new model of care is emerging.

Two more things to remember. Once residents in memory care begin to have this freedom, they will not want to give it back. In addition, residents in assisted living and independent living will begin to ask for the same things. Welcome to the future.

Cameron J. Camp is the Director of Research & Development at the Center for Applied Research in Dementia, and the original adaptor of Montessori methods for dementia care. He has been conducting research in the field of gerontology, dementia intervention, and cognitive intervention for over 30 years, holds 2 patents, has written several books, and lectures around the world on the use of Montessori Dementia Interventions.

By Cameron Camp, PhD

Center for Applied Research in Dementia

May 2019

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