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Communication is the Key to all Relationships

Join us as we recap month 3 on our “From Can’t to Can Do!” Montessori project at Clark Retirement

By: Jennifer Brush and Renee Van Y

We have made progress in five areas this month that have improved different aspects of communication at Clark Retirement.

Name Tags
New Name Tags (pictured on left) | Old Name Tags (pictured on right) were confusing

Name tags

When someone calls us by name, we feel respected.  One word that always gets our attention is our name.  Using a person's name acknowledges their identity and can boost their self-esteem.  One goal of our project is to improve communication between staff and residents and between residents and other residents in order to build successful relationships.  But what if you are living with a memory impairment and can’t remember anyone’s name?  Well, staff have always worn name tags, but what stood out the most on the name tags was the name of the community, Clark.  In fact, residents often called staff “Clark.”  Staff started wearing new name tags this month. We now have kelly green tags with everyone’s name (staff and residents) in large white letters.  So far, we have had positive response from staff stating that the residents are calling them by name. We have noted residents calling us by name who didn’t in the past, which tells us that they can read the name tags and therefore the name tags are successful. The residents were all very excited about the new name tags (except a few) and thought that they were a great idea. The liked the color and size. We have had a bit of a struggle keeping track of the residents’ name tags at night and still need to work on identifying the best system for this.  We purchased a storage organizer for them. Care staff decided the easiest method of storing the name tags will be to keep them in the med carts overnight. The challenge has been making sure the name tags go into the carts at night.

Montessori Activity for Dementia - Arranging Flowers
Montessori Activity – Arranging Flowers

One on One Resident Engagement

The Life Enrichment staff have started doing the Montessori activities one on one with the residents so they are familiar with the materials and the procedures.  The ultimate goal is for each person to choose activities on his or her own at any time of the day. The flower arranging is highly loved. The residents arrange the flowers in the morning and then place them on the tables.  However, we have to get new vases because they are too tall and residents can’t see each other when sitting at the dining room tables! The large puzzles and metal insets are a success also.  Renee spoke with independent living residents at an area meeting about the Montessori project, and they expressed interest in it. Some of them are eager to volunteer to help with the activities, so we are excited about that.

Room Signs with resident photos
Room signs with resident photos

Room Signs to Improve Wayfinding

We are also very enthusiastic about our new room signs designed by Shara Bohach at Unity Design in Cleveland.  The residents were offered a variety of brightly colored borders from which to choose from for their rooms signs.  Together, with Renee they choose a different color to be used for each of the three hallways where the bedrooms are located.  The new room signs feature a large color photo of each resident with their name in large white print in the colored border underneath the personal photo.  Each photo is an image that the residents recognize as themselves.  The signs have been placed in attractive frames and will be hung outside each person’s room.

Memory Book for Dementia
Memory Book

Memory Book

Renee put together her first memory book for a resident.  Working with the resident’s family, she complied pictures throughout the resident’s life, including pictures of her family, car and vacations. The resident frequently asks about her husband that passed away a few months ago, the location and security of her car, and believes that she’s moving home. So, the pages in her book were created to address her concerns in a positive way.  The family is very excited and willing to assist with this process to help their mom. They are also experiencing a lot of stress as the resident frequently calls them about her concerns regarding husband and car. We will now have to work with the resident to find the phrasing that works best to relieve her anxiety and practice using spaced retrieval to help her remember to look in her book for the information.  We will keep you posted on the progress.

Staff Engagement

In order to create a culture of sustained life enrichment, we want to influence staff attitudes and behaviors in a positive way.  In order to make change stick, the new techniques, strategies and practices need to be on everyone’s mind.  Jennifer created a “From Can’t to Can Do! Montessori Thought of the Week” for the staff to discuss with each other during their weekly Montessori updates.  This gives them something to ponder as a team or a strategy to try during personal care that takes them one step closer to creating an environment where both staff and elders truly thrive.  Jennifer will be on her way to Grand Rapids from Cleveland in just a few days to follow up with staff and assist with implementation.

Stay tuned for more progress to come.

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