The Stone and the Heart
Sitting perched on the branches of the baobab tree growing high above the center of the town square, to all who passed below, the wise Great Owl recounted the following allegorical tale:
Four unlikely animal friends journeyed together in search of the perfect retirement home for their aged relatives living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. In the neighbouring towns stood two such homes. The Fox and the Weasel toured the home with the ‘stone’ on its sign, while the Porpoise and the Hair selected the home with the ‘heart’ on its sign.
The stone home was a ‘home-like environment’ where ‘patients’ lived. The heart home was ‘home’ for individuals recognized as ‘people’ first and distinct from the symptoms of their disease.
The stone home expectation required that residents and families fit into the existing model of care with fixed staff ‘ratios’. The heart home revolved and shaped the amount of care around each person and family member based on individual needs, employing a flexible person-centered care model.
The stone home enforced strict visiting hours policies, preferring families not come to visit or stay during certain times. At the heart home friends, families and pets were recognized as crucial components of the care team, welcomed to visit as often and for as long as they wished.
Mood altering medication was used liberally at the stone home to calm and control ‘challenging behaviours’. The heart home recognized ‘behaviour’ as a valid means of communication. Unmet needs being communicated were identified and satisfied rather than administering sedating medications.
The stone home completed goal-based ‘tasks’ that were undone, started over and repeated again. In the heart home a wide variety of continuously evolving social, cognitive and motor skills focused programs and activities were offered individually or in small groups to meet each person’s abilities and needs.
And before unfurling his majestic wings and taking to flight towards the heart home, the wise Great Grey Owl imparted on last moral leaned from this talk: It’s better to be in the ‘Hare’ and now and live life with a ‘porpoise’.
Isaac Weinroth Executive Director, One Kenton Place Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care Community