2018-10-11 / News

St. Andre helps families ‘Walk the Path’

By Abigail Worthing Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD – St. Andre Health Care Center is making strides to ensure that it provides the best care for its patients suffering with Alzheimer’s and dementia, also know as “memory care” patients.

As part of this journey, a former administrator turned-dementia specialist Dayna Larson-Hurst will teach a free class on Oct. 13 from 10 a.m. to noon to help families struggling with navigating the challenges of supporting a family member with dementia, titled “Walking the Path Together.”

The event is free and open to the public.

“We want to make sure we’re providing the best care possible, and hosting classes like this is really a blessing,” said Sister Pat Sullivan, head of Mission Integration and Spiritual Care for St. Andre Health Care.

The class will provide support and tools for those who are supporting their family through the trials of memory loss.

“This is really such an amazing opportunity for us to host. The class will focus on how we can help not only the family by supporting them, but also by giving them tools to help them get their family member engaged,” said Mary Danis, director of services for St. Andre

Health Care. “When you work with those in memory loss, every day is different, so every day you need a different approach.”

According to the National Institute on Aging, dementia is the loss of behavioral abilities and cognitive functioning, such as reasoning and remembering, to an extent that interferes with daily life. While the loss of healthy neurons can happen with aging, for those with dementia, it is a far greater loss.

Those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can become easily confused or undergo personality and temperament changes, making caring for those in memory loss a challenge that requires day-to-day alterations in care.

Larson-Hurst was an administrator at St. Andre Health Care Center for three years before leaving to pursue her master’s, but has kept in touch with her colleagues there.

When Danis heard that she would be in the area for the weekend, she asked if Larson-Hurst would consider not only teaching a class, but training the staff. Larson-Hurst, who has an 18-year history working in Catholic healthcare, is now a consultant with Avila Institute of Gerontology.

Following the course on Saturday morning, she will train the staff in the memory care division of St. Andre Health Care, working with both theoretical cases as well as consulting actual charts in the ward to further equip the staff with the skills needed to provide care.

“Our staff attends in-services (training), but this will be a chance to work with someone who wants to give hands on advice,” Danis said. “We want our staff to feel like they have a toolkit to provide the best care. We’re very fortunate to be hosting this class.”

St. Andre Health Care has been on Pool Street since 1940, serving as a home for unwed mothers until 1976.

The facility now serves as a 96-room nursing home, providing rehabilitation, hospice, memory care, as well as respite, short term and long term care.

The not-for-profit center was run exclusively by Good Shepherd Sisters until 2001, with a sister heading every department, until a decline in new nuns lead them to pursue other options.

The facility partnered with Covenant Health out of Tewksbury, Massachusetts, joining its network of 17 long-term care facilities and three hospitals.

This class will tie in with the initiative to build a memory care garden for the center, which is currently in the fundraising phase and has its groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 4.

A memory care garden is an outdoor space where those with dementia can wander and partake in outdoor activities in a safe, controlled environment. Many nursing homes and memory care facilities implement these outdoor havens to try and stimulate the mind instead of residents walking the same hallways every day.

Those with memory loss can be prone to wandering and getting lost so most memory care gardens contain a circuit path with only one entrance and exit so as to not confuse residents.

Danis, who has been with St. Andre Health Care for 13 years, speaks with passion about constantly growing and improving their programs for memory care, and is thrilled for the learning opportunity for the staff.

“We continually look for ways to improve. This memory care garden is part of that ongoing effort to improve the services for those who have dementia,” said Danis. “This class is a wonderful leaving opportunity for those who need guidance, and we hope to have a great turnout.”

Those who wish to make donations for the garden can do so through the center’s website, where a drop down box will allow donors to specify that the funds are to be used for the memory care garden.

Contact Staff Writer Abigail Worthing at news@inthecourier.com.

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