Charles Gagné has seen first hand the value of training staff on how to use emotional intelligence to respond to dementia side-effects, such as shouting, lashing out and taking off.
The chief executive officer at Actionmarguerite — which houses 611 elderly and complex care residents at five locations in Winnipeg — says he and everyone from custodians to nursing staff are learning practical ways to avoid and defuse situations with a compassionate and gentle approach rather than responding with physical restraint or sedation.
When a resident with dementia living in a special needs behaviour unit at Actionmarguerite in St. Boniface decided she was busting out and going home, Gagné saw Advanced Gerontological Education training in action.
"Somehow she was able to leave through the front entrance, and she was going home — no and ifs, ands or buts," recalled Gagné. "Anyone preventing her from going home was a threat, even though they were just trying to prevent her from leaving" to keep her safe.
"This could've gone south easily" were it not for staff trained in gentle persuasive approaches, he said.
"They came and within two minutes they were able to defuse the situation," said Gagné, telling her they know she wants to go home and asked her to come inside and call her son.
"A little gentle redirection from staff protected the resident and within 10 minutes, the lady was having tea on her unit and life was good," said the care home administrator who expects all 900 staff at Actionmarguerite sites will receive such training. "Staff knew how to respond."
Since introducing the training six months ago, Actionmarguerite has already reduced the need for physical restraints and medication for residents, said Gagné.
"We're going to be tracking that over the course of time, as well as the number of workplace injuries around aggression," he said. "It really provides staff a level of confidence in working with that population. It's giving us tools and training for person-centred care."
The training program is working, agreed Gord Sango, whose wife, Kathy, has been living at Actionmarguerite for 16 months.
"She's much calmer since she's been in here and less agitated," said Sango. He cared for Kathy at home for three years before she was moved to hospital for a year before moving to Actionmarguerite.
"It's complementing what I can see and feel is a very good environment here," he said after spending time with his wife, who turns 70 this year. "They're very sincere and compassionate already... The training is only going to make things that much better."
Sango said he had "on-the-job" training caring for Kathy at home. "For the most part, was adjusting to Kathy's behavioural changes which were very severe at times."
She wasn't able to say what was bothering her and would scream and reach out and grab somebody, he said. "You're constantly adjusting yourself to her and trying to understand what she's going through. You're trying to figure out what it is that's happening and respond to them... Sometimes you get it. Sometimes you don't."
With Manitoba's population aging, and the number of people living with dementia expected to rise to 40,700 from 23,000 in the next 20 years, the province needs to find better ways to care for people, said Gagné
"There are options or alternatives to how we're going to manage people with dementia."
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.
Updated on Monday, April 29, 2019 at 8:42 PM CDT: Fixes misspelled name