Los Angeles Jewish Home's Blog

Little Things Can Do So Much

The Jewish Home's Goldenberg•Ziman Special Care Center is known for providing exceptional skilled nursing care for residents with Alzheimer's disease and age-related dementia. In creating the Center, the Home turned to expert research about how environment affects the behavior, sense of well-being, and even symptoms of individuals who suffer with memory, cognitive, and motor impairments. Many pioneering techniques were also utilized by staff to enhance the overall wellness of the ninety-eight residents. These include a "person first" approach, in which all staff members are involved in the residents' care and are responsible for the "life happiness" of those in the Center, and reminiscing activities, designed to draw out memories and moments.

In the same vein, the staff of the Goldenberg•Ziman Center is generating new ideas to help stimulate or soothe residents, as appropriate. "We're taking things back to the basics, focusing on sensory and reality stimulation," explains Amanda Powell, activities team leader for the Center. The goal is engagement — in an activity, with a staff person, or with another resident. And they're finding out that sometimes it's those little things that can do so much!

A therapeutic intervention item can be as general and every day as a basket of small towels, waiting to be folded. Folding is an activity everyone has done and happens quite naturally, usually without encouragement from staff. The repetitive motion is calming and the feeling of accomplishment is uplifting. Magazines are a simple tool that can stimulate a memory of a time, place, or person, and provides a world of images to easily enjoy.

Stuffed animals, always a favorite, may have small beans and lavender inside. The beans give them a more realistic weight and feel, and the lavender is calming. Very lifelike in appearance are therapeutic puppies and kittens, curled up sleeping in their own bed. These pets have a battery operated mechanism that gives the appearance of breathing as their chests rise and fall. You can pet them, talk to them, and even brush them. They are the object of much love and attention.Of course, when it comes to love and attention, the ultimate is a sweet, soft baby doll. The Center has many in different sizes. The dolls are more lifelike than a child's doll and are happy to be held for hours on end.

Working with CNAs, social workers and family members, activities staff can create a "busy kit" customized for a particular resident based on their likes and needs. For instance, someone who loved to cook might find comfort in the familiarity of kitchen utensils, such as serving spoons or spatulas, oven mitts, hand towels, and plastic fruit. A former fisherman could be engaged with rubbery worms, a small toy fishing pole, and a reel to be turned. Arts and crafts kits can include crayons, paper and drawings to be colored. A sensory kit with lotion encourages small massage moments. The knitting kit provides a variety of colored yarn that encourages the motion of knitting without the needles. For residents who have the need to walk, even though they are tired, a blanket that is slightly weighted can help an individual to relax and be more stationary. It's light enough to be taken off easily, and just heavy enough to give the feel of a hug.

"We're seeing that, by implementing these therapeutic items and busy kits, the level of agitation among our residents has been reduced," says Amanda. She was instrumental in introducing these creative items and is thinking outside of the box about how to engage, connect, calm and stimulate residents in an effort to improve well-being and decrease behaviors that can lead to agitation and falls — all without the use of psychopharmacological drugs.

This program was made possible by the generosity of Jewish Home supporters Gerri Wormser and John N. Levi, Jr. According to Amanda, "We estimate over 67% of our residents in the Goldenberg•Ziman Center have benefitted from these therapeutic items. Programs like this bring to life our values in providing excellent care to our residents."

To learn more about the programs and services of the Goldenberg•Ziman Special Care Center, please contact community manager Susan Leitch at (818) 774-3113 or Susan.Leitch@jha.org.