5 tips to lead groups of cognitively impaired residents

According to Elder Care Communications, up to half of all nursing home residents have some form of dementia or cognitive impairment.

We all know that cognitive and memory impairment can change how a person thinks, acts, responds and/or feels. These changes often present special challenges for families and caregivers, especially in a social environment. An ordinary conversation, for example, can be quite frustrating when the person you are talking to has difficulty remembering from one moment to the next about what has been said. Individuals with cognitive impairment may also experience a range of behavioral issues that may include communication difficulties, repetition of an idea or an activity, wondering, lack of motivation, or often times aggressive or impulsive behaviors.

So where do you start when attempting to overcome the difficulties of including them in group or social settings?

Here are 5 tips that may help you:

1. Due to the possibility of them needing more assistance than others in group activities, take the time to learn more about your residents as individuals and their personal likes and interests. By doing this you will be able to form better judgment on programs they are more likely to enjoy and what would be most appropriate for them. Engage family members by finding out more about their past and some experiences they may have had throughout their lives.

2. Be sure to educate yourself on dementia and Alzheimer’s. Information is empowering!!

3. Try breaking down tasks and actions. For Example, instead of asking “Would you like to come to our art program down the hall and paint a picture? I can show you where it is!” Use simple phrases and questions such as, “Come with me; let’s go paint.”

4. Be in tune with their feelings. If they are sad or angry, show them that you are listening, whether you understand or not. By doing this you can create a bond of trust that will enable you to encourage them to participate in a productive program that would ensure a better quality of life.

5. Last, use your resources. Encourage family members, volunteers, or even residents with higher levels of cognition to assist them or even just hold their hand in group settings.

Just remember, before you can begin any of this be sure to lay a foundation of your knowledge of the resident along with their diagnosis. Begin by creating a personalized careplan on goals that you would like to see them achieve in these social settings, then the approaches you are going to take to help them.