True Person-Centered Dementia Care

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Virtually everyone has been touched by dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease in one way or another. Whether it be your parent, family member, neighbor or friend, this can be a scary and challenging time, especially for those who become caregivers or are leading the search for finding a Memory Care community.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and affects 1 in 9 people over the age of 65. It is estimated that almost 50% of those with Alzheimer’s have not been diagnosed. And that number is only growing with the aging Baby Boomer population. In Missouri and Illinois, the number is expected to jump 18.2% between 2016 – 2025. For this reason, Cedarhurst has invested time and capital to create environments ideal for residents living with dementia and extensively train team members to practice True Person-Centered Dementia Care.

True Person-Centered Care is best described as care centered around the resident. Respect and understanding is the key to unlocking True Person-Centered Care. We allow our residents the freedom to make choices regarding what time they wake up in the morning, activities they participate in, etc. We are here to help them live their lives to the fullest every day. This type of model is not easy, but when done correctly it can make a world of difference for the residents living in our communities.

Cedarhurst Memory Care Communities are truly a staple for care – beginning with their employee training. Every employee at Cedarhurst is asked to participate in The Advanced Person-Centered Dementia Care Certificate Program through The Alzheimer’s Association, St Louis Chapter. This 12 week course covers everything from the basics of dementia, to understanding behavior, to how to best handle dining, bathing, and activities.

Basics of Dementia:

Dementia is not a disease, but rather a classification for diseases and disorders that affect brain cells. The symptoms of dementia are defined as a “decline in memory, language, problem-solving and other cognitive skills that affects a person’s ability to perform everyday activities,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association. There are about 60 different types of irreversible dementias and an additional 40 reversible forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common and is commonly known for short-term memory loss.


There are approximately 15 million unpaid caregivers in the US. The most common reasons for someone to become a caregiver for either a spouse or parent is to help the elder stay at home longer and the caregiver’s perceived responsibility to become a care provider. Many of the necessary tasks associated with being a caregiver can be incredibly stressful, especially for those who have other familial and/or work obligations.

Understanding Behavior:

To best understand behavior, a caregiver needs to recognize that behavior is communication. The action is simply a result of a feeling or emotion. It is believed that up to 90% of behaviors are more-than-likely triggered by a change in the social and/or physical environment or by the caregiver’s approach.  By realizing that the behavior is more than just an action, a caregiver can help to eliminate the triggers and therefore eliminate the negative or disruptive behaviors.


When communicating with a senior who has Alzheimer’s Disease or other related dementia it is important to be patient and understanding. Due to the symptoms, communication could become increasingly difficult and may cease all together as the disease progresses. Below are a few tips to help improve effective communication.

Effective Methods:

  • Listen carefully
  • Keep language simple
  • Help fill in the blanks
  • Give compliments
  • Ask opinions
  • Be sincere
  • Use positive language
  • Rely on humor about yourself

Ineffective Methods:

  • Argue, confront, correct
  • Give orders
  • Make demands
  • Talk down to a person
  • Ask too many questions
  • Give too many choices
  • Try to explain or prepare too far in advance
  • Talk about a person in his/her presence
  • Rush the conversation


Organized and scheduled activities can be too intimidating and may cause stress, depending on the person and their stage of dementia. When planning activities, try to make them personalized and meaningful. Our care team gets to know each and every resident. This extra effort helps us to plan out events and activities that will cater more to the residents’ desires. We also try to have spontaneous activities that are more personal to nurture relationships.

It is also believed that spending just 15 minutes a day in the sunshine can help to “clear the cobwebs” in a person’s brain as well as naturally increasing their endorphins.


We understand the challenges of how memory loss affects mealtime. Tastes and smells can change, making eating more difficult or less desirable. Some find difficulty with using utensils and become overwhelmed with choices or find themselves too distracted to eat.

At Cedarhurst, we have established traditions and routines that help to encourage healthy, nutritious eating habits for all of our residents. These traditions help to trigger cues that encourages residents to focus not only on their meal, but the tradition of the meal – coming together with people that you care about, breaking bread and having a conversation.

These are just a few of the items that are covered during training and then implemented within the Cedarhurst communities. With a growing, aging population, now is the time to truly embrace Person-Centered care.

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