Person-Centered Care for Whole-Person Wellness

The Preserve is putting the finishing touches on construction just as wellness month approaches. This encourages staff to think about the person-centered approach our family, Volunteers of America, built their foundation on. After all, we are a community focused on encouraging engagement and promoting wellness for our residents. We are beyond excited to launch our Life Enrichment program because of the unique and personalized approach we plan to incorporate into our SWFL community.

At The Preserve, we encourage a whole-person approach to wellness. We use the term “Life Enrichment” over “Activities” for our program because we strive to do more than simply occupy time but instead, offer meaningful life experiences. We yearn to dive deeper into wellness beyond just physical health and tap into what makes us laugh, what gives us purpose, where our joy comes from and, most importantly, what fuels our inner fire. Wellness is not only physical; it is mental, emotional, and spiritual as well.

When Denise, The Director of Nursing at The Preserve, was asked about the importance of a person-centered approach to wellness, she responded, “I believe it is extremely important to take a holistic approach with our residents. As caregivers, we must learn the histories and personalities of our residents to really understand how to support their psychosocial wellbeing. My mind always goes back to a resident I once cared for in a memory support unit. He had a multi-compartment lock box given to him by an activities assistant because she learned he was a retired Mechanical Engineer. He loved exploring the mechanisms of the box. Every-day I would hide a little knick-knack or piece of chocolate inside one of the locks. Although he may not vividly remember that this was a daily occurrence between us, I remembered that this was something special to lift his spirits. We would laugh together as he opened each compartment and he would call me a ‘trickster’. In that moment I knew he really enjoyed that simple yet personal thing I did for him each morning. He thought I was just hysterical.” Denise was able to use this lock box as an opportunity to connect with the resident or even use it as a distraction when he was upset. Learning what residents like, especially those suffering from dementia, is necessary to connect on a personal level and even diffuse some tough situations.

There are a few tools The Preserve uses to promote a person-centered approach. First, we identify our QUILT philosophy that was developed as a basis for Memory Support Programs in Volunteers of America communities. This acronym stands for Quality in Living Today, which identifies six aspects of a person’s overall wellness to improve quality of life. This model recognizes that all persons have physical, social, emotional, intellectual, occupational, and spiritual needs regardless of their level of cognitive function. Activities based on this model create a purposeful use of time. These programs focus on abilities-not limitations. Our monthly activity calendar will reflect each of these six components.

The encouragement of technology-based tools has allowed more opportunities for residents to get connected to the outside world. Implementation of the iN2L or It’s Never Too Late technology at The Preserve will allow residents to utilize technological resources with the help of staff. Residents may email family, Skype, play cognitive stimulating games, search the web, listen to music organized by decades and genres, etc. Each resident will have a profile containing his or her interests and social histories as a reference for staff to provide personalized care. Utilizing technology for its unlimited capabilities will be ingrained in the foundation of our Life Enrichment program.
An important component of overall health and wellness is enjoying fresh air & nature. To support this, a unique feature of The Preserve is our beautiful courtyard which is secured for our assisted living, memory-support residents. Fortunately, our community is blessed with security AND outside space! Our first floor courtyard offers park benches, greenery, and short walking paths for our residents. According to The Dementia Centre, the health of those with dementia who spent 10-15 minutes outside per day improved significantly. “Green Walks” reduce stress levels and increase self-esteem. The Preserve recognizes that a little sunlight can go a long way.

The key to successfully enhancing quality of life and overall wellness for our residents is knowing the interests and personalities of each resident. This person-centered care is aimed to ignite that inner fire once again by creating programs that touch on a person’s physical, social, emotional, intellectual, occupational, and spiritual interests. We want to create a family-like environment for residents, staff, family members, volunteers, and guests where we truly know one another.

We can’t wait to get to learn about our residents at The Preserve!

Rachel Hafer
Director of Life Enrichment & Memory Support Programming
rhafer@voa.org