At Arthur’s Senior Care, one element that differentiates us is our ability to gently manage day-to-day behavioral changes in our residents.

We understand that it’s normal for the mental, emotional and physical health issues sustained by our clients to often result in feelings of frustration, sadness, resentment and/or anger. That’s especially true when dementia is involved and the resident is unable to reason as he or she has in the past.

That’s why we teach our staff how to recognize those normal responses and react in constructive ways that can instill calm and comfort. Since our staff ratios are only 1:3, we’re able to respond respectfully and immediately to help clients through their emotional responses before they turn into bigger problems.

That can be hugely reassuring to family members. One daughter, Julie Norris, was greatly relieved to move her mom to Arthur’s after a previous facility planned to start medication in an attempt to control her aggressive behaviors.

“(We) toured Arthur’s and fell in love with the philosophy of care, the staff and the home,” Norris remembers. “The people chosen as house managers and care attendants are smart, kind, patient and have genuine concern for the residents. Training for the care attendants is so thorough, they are able to care for each resident even when someone is having a bad day or being aggressive.”

The emotional connection: Understanding client reactions

Here are some specific examples of Arthur’s staff training in action.

We recognize individual traits 

Each client and each case of dementia is unique, such that certain words or reactions may soothe one person and anger another. As such, we work closely with each person to understand their triggers and remember the most effective responses to his individual emotions.

We avoid arguments

When a client is expressing a fear or describing a delusion, disputing its reality is rarely effective. An effective alternative is to validate the emotion, vow to address whatever is bothering the client then redirect his attention from the “trigger point” to another topic and/or location.

We employ “therapeutic lies”

Instead of insisting clients with dementia come to terms with real but upsetting information, we encourage them to talk about topics that seem to make them happy. “The truth that you speak to your loved one with dementia is what they can handle emotionally,” explains Arthur’s Director of Development Deb Nygaard.

We apologize 

When clients are angry or upset, we empathize and apologize. Strong emotions can often be diffused with phrases such as “I’m sorry I made you angry,” “I’m sorry I spoke to you like a child” or “I’m sorry — I didn’t mean for that to happen.”

We’re OK with repetition 

When a client repeats himself, we avoid mentioning the repetition and instead divert him by asking him to “Tell me more.”

We purposely limit choices

Instead of giving clients with dementia unlimited options (such as food items) from which to choose, we ward off frustration by narrowing down choices to two or three.

We offer sequencing 

Because clients with dementia often can’t remember the steps involved in a task, we walk them through the steps in sequence so they don’t get discouraged.

We respect personal space

We’re purposeful in how we approach clients for conversation while preserving their dignity and comfort. For example, to show respect to those with limited peripheral vision we approach them head on, verbally greet them, carefully shake their hands (giving them the upper hand), then take a seat at a level below theirs.

We streamline furnishings

We eliminate unnecessary clutter in our homes to help those with dementia remember the uses for basic utilitarian items.

“I wish Arthur’s could be in charge of every memory care community in the country, so that every person with dementia could be cared for so well,” Norris adds.