By Galina Markovich
Director, Millennium Memory Care
November 1st, 2019 was a milestone in the story of Millennium Memory Care (MMC). It was on that day that we celebrated MMC’s six-year anniversary. When we began, we initially just accepted residents with different types of dementia. But as I saw that more and more people were sent to psychiatric hospitals from other facilities, I decided to help those families with their loved ones who had challenging behaviors. In the six years since I started working as Director of MMC, we never rejected any residents with challenging behaviors.
There were plenty of instances where I realized that medications were not only not ineffective, but in many cases, even harmful for elderly residents with challenging behaviors. In my six years with Millennium, we saw very different situations and types of behaviors, and each case was treated as an individual that required personalized attention. I sincerely believe that most difficult behaviors can be controlled and managed through a personalized approach and specialized staff training.
One thing we have certainly found is that music therapy is very therapeutic for people with challenging behaviors. As an example, we had a resident who constantly screamed from hallucinations. As soon as we played piano for her, she started screaming much less, and finally, she stopped almost entirely without any medications. And on the rare occasions where she does scream again, the staff simply plays music from her CDs and she calms down quickly and becomes quiet and peaceful. Over time, I observed that some residents enjoy listening to overhead music from the facility sound system, whereas others enjoy a more individually tailored music experience. At Millennium Memory Care, we continue to use a wide variety of music at every possible opportunity. I strongly believe that music has a great deal of therapeutic promise for people with challenging behaviors.
Massage is another therapy that is great for our residents with behavioral challenges. Plus, the residents really enjoy it! Hand massage, foot massage and scalp massage are great for relaxion, and we use massage frequently for our residents. I saw great outcomes after introducing massage to our residents with challenging behaviors, and our staff even benefits from the calm that the process creates for both giver and receiver.
Another therapeutic technique that we use at Millennium Memory Care is staff managed animal and pet therapy. Pet therapy is a great way to decrease anxiety and agitation. Our residents respond extremely well to pet therapy, and at one point we even had a friendly goat visiting our residents at Holmdel! We have also had rabbits in all our communities, and of course, some friendly dogs as well. Many of the residents who were typically very anxious reacted quite positively to the pets.
Doll therapy and visiting kids therapy are more great tools for our residents with challenging behaviors. On many occasions, I observed very withdrawn and depressed residents having a very positive reaction to dolls and kids. When we have seen resistance to care, we have typically determined that it was the result of depression, and for many residents, when we employed dolls or visits from kids, it made a huge difference.
We at Millennium Memory Care use a lot of different therapeutic techniques to heal challenging behaviors. These are just a few examples that help us to manage our residents without sending them to psychiatric hospitals. When it comes to making a care plan for a resident with challenging behaviors, I always opt for creativity and personalization. With this approach, we can manage very challenging cases without excessively medicating our residents. Each resident at our communities came to us with some kind of challenge, and we can manage each resident with our personalized, creative therapeutic approach, because it truly works!!!