Caregivers should make sure they engage with dementia patients through eye contact, touch and other means so they connect with them and make them “feel alive and that they belong,” an international expert on the topic said at Lower Columbia College Tuesday.
Joao Partel Araujo said in many cases of patients resisting care or being combative, they are in a “geriatric limbo” where they are physically present but don’t understand and aren’t understood by others.
“We need to make sure she gets us and we get her,” said Araújo, a resident of Portugal who has degrees in nursing and healthcare management.
About 100 Cowlitz County caregivers and community members gathered at LCC to hear Araújo describe and advocate for “Humanitude.” He also answered questions from a six-member panel of local doctors and emergency responders.
The Humanitude method of care was founded by two French caregivers who developed more than 150 techniques based on four “pillars” of care: gaze, speech, touch and verticality, or being upright.
Koelsch Communities, which owns four senior living facilities in Longview, got a $20,000 grant from WorkSource to bring Araújo and his team to Longview and Vancouver for presentations and training.
This week, 12 Koelsch staff were trained in Humanitude practices and Araújo’s team gave Koelsch information to continue the techniques in the future. He has taught the Humanitude method of care in a variety of countries and healthcare settings.
Benjamin Surmi, Koelsch director of people and culture, said when he found out about Humanitude, he was impressed by the method and hands-on training. He said the Humanitude training is unlike most in the United States because it teaches caregivers specific actions rather than just theory.
Araújo said most caregivers know the principles behind good care, such as the importance of eye contact, but they don’t have the tools to implement them.
The Humanitude pillars are based on things humans need after they are born to show they are a part of society, Araújo said. These interactions “tell us we’re alive and that we belong,” he said.
Araújo said most patients don’t get enough eye contact, limited speech and are only touched to get them to do something. This is not intentional, he said, but many caregivers don’t know the best way to get a positive reaction from patients resisting care.
For example, the tone of speech should be soft and calm when addressing those with dementia, much like the way parents would address children, he said.
To increase positive reaction and response from patients, caregivers should continue talking even if the patient is not responding, Araújo said. He said caregivers announcing what they are doing before they do it and explaining as they go helps patients understand their surroundings better.
Araújo said the results of Humanitude include a reduction of behavioral dementia symptoms, use of some medications and burnout among staff.
“We’re getting these results not because they were ill but because they were lost,” he said. “We’re finding them again and bringing them back to Humanitude.”