We recently did a training here at The Kensington with John Graham to deepen our understanding of Frontotemporal Dementia. This is an umbrella term for dementias that affect the frontal and temporal areas of the brain and causes changes in personality, behavior and language.  Whenever I attend a training I always walk away with a discovery that impacts everything I do as I interact with our residents that are living with dementia.   At this particular training I walked away with a deeper understanding of how living with a lack of empathy might affect someone living in our community and how unfair my expectation of them to care how I feel was so very unreasonable. Just having this basic knowledge can take a refusal for a shower or unwanted but much needed care into a simplistic solution.  I cannot rely on their understanding of my agenda and what I want them to do for me as a means of helping them.  It is no longer possible for this person to care about my emotions so I can only appeal to them by understanding what they feel they want.  Such a simple shift with such outstanding results.  Here is how we do it.  They say to us what they want and instead of responding with an answer we just repeat what the person wants so they know that we understand how they feel.  No matter what occurs, we are off to a much better start.

The executive control center of the brain helps a person with the following:

  • Empathy
  • Make Rational Decisions
  • Decide What They Want
  • Initiate What They Want to Do
  • Have Empathy

This begs me to ask what I would do if I did not have any of these things to help me.  I would not understand that my hygiene matters.  I would not respect the space and time of someone else. I would not understand how my disease was affecting my family or my caregivers. I would not be able to tell someone “thank you for all you do”.  I would not be able to tell you that what you do every day matters. I learn and grow every day that I work with people living with dementia.  I am inspired each day at the perseverance and work it takes our team to bring daily joy to our residents.  I am so grateful to The Kensington and the training and opportunities that are given to our team.  However, I am most grateful to get to work every day with people living with dementia as their own perseverance outdoes us all.

By Leandra Sims

Kensington Sierra Madre Assisted Living Supervisor Leandra Sims headshot

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