Newspaper Article Archive of
Caring for people afflicted with Alzheimer’s or dementia requires a different approach than caring for people with physical impairments.
Pleasantview Home in Kalona has been operating its nine-bed low stimulus unit since 1987.
At the time, it was considered very innovative to have such a unit, and the University of Iowa aided in the process of adding that to Pleasantview, according to Larry Swartzendruber, director of advancement at Pleasantview.
The low stimulus unit serves people who are suffering from Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.
“Typically, those people are ambulatory though,” Nick Jedlicka, Pleasantview’s executive administrator, said. “Physically, they’re still doing pretty well, but may have some cognitive issues.”
The key to providing the best care possible is the staff on the unit.
“The thing that makes it hum is our staff,” Jedlicka said. “With our low stimulus unit, you have to have the right people up there. You’re working with an elderly population, but there’s also the nuance of cognitive issues in play. Having the right person dedicated to working with those individuals is key.”
Swartzendruber spoke not just from a staff point of view, but also as someone with a loved one there.
“My mother is a resident up there,” he said. “I’ve seen first-hand, not only as a staff member, but as a family member, the care they receive and the one-on-one attention that they get. It’s very individualized attention they receive up there. The staff is just exemplary.”
Jedlicka explained how it is different caring for someone with cognitive issues.
“The key is to have the understanding of dementia and Alzheimer’s and how it impacts the mind,” he said. “You try to communicate with them on their level, avoid being forceful and try to think outside the box.”
Swartzendruber agreed, recalling his own personal experience.
“My mother talks about my father, who has passed away, in the sense that he’s still here,” he said. “You don’t argue or try to correct them. Their mindset is different, and their reality is different. I’m learning that you meet them on their level. It doesn’t do any good to correct them. You don’t want to embarrass them. Engage them in other ways that we might not be used to engaging each other.”
The LSU is currently on the third floor, which both men said is not ideal.
“The third floor is not totally ideal because residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia need space to walk,” Swartzendruber said. “It needs to be on the ground level, and that’s something we will eventually be addressing. We’re in the process at looking at future needs.
“We would like to move away from the institutionalized hallway. We’re hoping to create more homelike atmospheres.”
Jedlicka echoed Swartzendruber’s thoughts.
“We’re blessed with a fantastic large campus,” Jedlicka said. “A key component that research has indicated for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients would be space to be outdoors and time to absorb sunshine and work on something they enjoy. We’d like to have some kind of courtyard or external area.”