Quality of Life Manager, Sean van Wyk, speaks about long term care for a dementia patient

Caring for a loved one with dementia poses many challenges for families and caregivers. People with dementia from conditions such as Alzheimer’s and related diseases have a progressive biological brain disorder that makes it more and more difficult for them to remember things, think clearly, communicate with others, and take care of themselves. In addition, dementia can cause mood swings and even change a person’s personality and behaviour. Often families make the bold and brave choice to seek long term care for a dementia patient. But what does this entail? This month Quality of Life Manager at Livewell, Sean van Wyk talks to us about long term care:

Sean, what exactly is a Quality of Life Manager and what do you do?

My responsibility as a Quality of Life Manager is to ensure that each and every resident receives the best care and has the best quality of life possible, despite the disease. I focus on developing new activities and ideas to ensure that the standards of Livewell are held high.

As we are gearing towards a person-centric approach, my obligation is to guarantee that our residents are occupied with activities that suit their individual needs. Studies show that individuals suffering from dementia have to be kept active to ultimately prolong the negative effects of the disease.

In addition, I am conducting intensive research and data collection to identify trends within the disease and its multi-faceted characteristics. eventually understand the disease and effectively plan each individual care plan within Livewell.

The final aspect of my duties is to educate as many on the disease as possible, whether it be our staff, family members or the public.

When people are seeking long term care for a dementia patient, what questions should they ask the facility?

Livewell strives to make the experience a home away from home. We promote freedom of movement and remain in constant awareness of the individualism of the person.

With this in mind, my advice to potential facility sourcing families would be to enquire about their activity programme, their individual care to dementia sufferers, what they provide in terms of therapeutic elements such as whether they are pet-friendly. It is no secret that animals have been prevalent in therapy to dementia sufferers, therefore we understand this need and include it in our offering.

When seeking long term care for dementia patients, families should also enquire about carers and the experience they have taking care of someone with dementia, do they receive regular update training, what is the carer to resident ratio, what level of healthcare experience is available?

Last but certainly not least, safety is a very important question to ask. It is imperative to distinguish whether your loved one will be in a safe facility that has all the measures in place to ensure that all risks are taken into consideration. This includes physical safety, as well as, emotional safety.

What aspects of long term care is often overlooked when families care for their loved one at home?

Although caring for someone with living with dementia at home is a noble and an honourable task, there are aspects that may not be attended to in terms of overall care, including physical, mental and emotional. Primary dementia caregivers also need to take into consideration the aspects of their own needs and requirements that may never be efficiently met when caring for someone.

Long term care for a dementia patient should include a good activity and therapy program to promote cognitive stimulation to promote quality of life. As no two people’s dementia is the same, we believe in providing personalised dementia support through our activities, and specifically memory-care activities, and caregiving.

With long term care for a dementia patient, there also comes many health challenges including frailty and medication management. Through no fault of their own, many caregivers are not able to provide this level of care at home.

How does long term care for dementia patients benefit the primary caregiver?

It significantly reduces stress and burden. It allows for optimal peace of mind and allows the individual to spend time with their loved one in their capacity as a family member and not a caregiver. It also brings the family dynamic back to its natural position, as it was intended, and relieves the primary caregiver of the weight of care giving.

It is wonderful watching families visit their loved ones at Livewell, they leave with the satisfaction of knowing their loved one will be well taken care of and looked after like family.

If someone is considering long term care for their loved one with dementia, what would you like them to know?

I think with my experience within this industry, my sincerest advice would be to firstly not let guilt envelope your thoughts to an extent where it is detrimental to your own care and that of your loved one.

It is far more easily said than done, however, the feeling of guilt is often unfounded, as the individual burdens themselves with thoughts of inadequacy and is driven by their duty to care for the individual suffering from dementia, themselves. Very often social and cultural traditions require this from us as children or family members.

Seeking long term care for a dementia patient is the best decision because it ensures the person receives the best professional care possible with subject-matter experts who understand the disease.

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Arrive as family, live with dignity and purpose.

Since 2011, the Livewell Group has been at the forefront of dementia and Alzheimer’s care in South Africa. We are motivated by a personal and heartfelt concern for the dignity and care of our elders and our efforts continue to be encouraged by the strong market need for specialised individual care.

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