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For World Alzheimer’s Day we want to provide information about the Best Friends™ Approach

At Ohana Care all our caregivers are certified in the Best Friends Approach. And, they use it when caring for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

“Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.” (Alzheimer’s Association).

With a cognitive disease comes decrease mental faculties. Therefore, to help mediate the symptoms, the Best Friends Approach applies a few simple methods to ensure the senior feels both safe and valued.

What is the Best Friends Approach?

It is exactly what it sounds like. The Best Friends Approach is giving a senior the opportunity to be supported by a trusted friend. When you think of your best friend, you think of that person that knows what you like, and what you don’t. In addition, it’s the person that supports you through anything. And goes the extra mile to make sure you are taken care of.

All caregivers have the technical background to support this illness. However, caregivers that use this approach have a fundamental relationship with the senior. And, additional empathy for them. This enables the caregiver to provide the best care possible. Not only do they help with administering medical treatment, but they also provide emotional support and stability through this confusing phase.

The approach is based on seven building blocks developed by Virginia Bell and David Troxel. The building blocks are:

1

Understanding what it’s like to have dementia.

2

Knowing and using the person’s Life Story.

3

Knowing just what to say when communication is breaking down.

4

Developing the ‘Knack’ of great dementia care.

5

Experiencing meaningful engagement throughout the day.

6

Recasting the relationship and your language from staff to Best Friend.

7

Recognizing the basic rights of a person with dementia.

To learn more about these steps visit bestfriendsapproach.com.

How Does the Best Friends Approach Help?

This approach helps with Alzheimer’s because it creates a trusting relationship between the senior and the caregiver. For example, if you are embarrassed about something, you would confide in your best friend, not the random person that you don’t know. In other words, the connection formed with seniors through this approach allows for a deeper understanding of what that specific person is going through. Thus, it allows deeply personal information to be passed to the caregiver allowing for more effective treatment. This applies to both physical and emotional treatments.

For example, asking the senior what they prefer to be called. As an illustration, imagine your legal name is Rebecca, but you’ve gone by Becky your whole life. It would be frustrating for every person to start a conversation calling you Rebecca. In some cases, this could mean every conversation that a care professional has with you starts with you on the defense. Of course, you could feel defensive, or feel as though they don’t care. For this reason, the Best Friends Approach begins by asking the person what they prefer to be called. As a result, the senior feels like they are being spoken to as an important equal and are more likely to be honest and helpful.

Best Friends ApproachAlso, something as simple as knowing the seniors’ favourite song can have so much impact. In particular, this helps in situations when communication breaks down and frustration impedes the ability to convey needs. In truth, a song can help to relax enough be able to communicate again.

Knowing your best friend is advocating to make your journey easier makes caring for a senior easier on both the caregiver and the person experiencing reduced cognitive function.

Why is the Best Friends Approach Effective?

Most notably, this approach doesn’t require a lot of time to be effective. It only takes a minute to actively engage a senior and reassure them that you’re their friend. And, that you have their best interests as your top priority.

Best friends don’t just report an issue they act on it and fix it. For example, a senior that works with Ohana Care has been working with care professionals to hone their medications. As a result, there was extra medication around the house that could potentially case a mixup. Our caregiver noticed this and realized that some had been mixed up. Of course, it would have been easy to just say this is not correct and leave it to someone else to fix. But, because we are their friend, we took the medication back to the pharmacist to sort through and dispose of the extra medication. Thus, the patient got the correct dosage for their treatment to be effective. Therefore, ensuring the best quality of life possible. That’s what a best friend does.

Diseases are difficult. Specifically, diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s that effect cognitive abilities. Because, this approach is about the person we are helping, not about the company or the caregiver’s agenda, it is effective. Of course, a best friend cares about advocating for the senior’s best interests.

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