Purpose, Instead Of Medicating. Rather than turning to medication to calm disruptive residents with Dementia, Salem Home staff have discovered a surprisingly simple alternative.

Staff have recently begun looking into residents' past to create meaning and purpose in their lives, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive.

"We look at who they were... and provide them activities that give them meaning," Marilyn Nelson, Director of Resident Care Services explains.

For a resident who spent 40 years as a teacher, it might mean creating a reading group; a longtime homemaker might help sort laundry or fill salt shakers.

Residents helping fill salt shakers

She notes many residents with Dementia can become restless, seeking an exit or expressing a desire to return home. Yet, the seemingly mundane tasks have a powerful effect; staff report seeing residents regain a sense of identity and belonging.

"Folding washcloths, matching socks... it's something they've done for years and years," Kelly Ens, Resource Development Coordinator explains. "The more we can engage them in activities that are familiar and build on their abilities, the more settled and secure they are."

It's part of bucking the stigma that Salem Home is a place to die, "when our residents move in, they come here to live. We need to find meaning and pleasure and purpose in the time they have remaining... instead of focusing on the end," Ens explains.

"... We need to find meaning and pleasure and purpose in the time they have remaining... instead of focusing on the end."

In the same vein, Salem is also creating a "downtown" area with a cafe, an environment modelled after the traditional small-town main street to give residents a sense of taking an excursion. The project aims to create another familiar rhythm of their past.

"When they're looking for somewhere to go, it's somewhere a staff or family member can take them... it's a different environment," Salem Home CEO Sherry Janzen explains.

Ens adds Salem Home is exactly that, a home, "and what should that feel like? What should it look like? You have to create that environment... because this is their new home."

The new framework was inspired by the DementiAbility training model, which focuses on the skills and abilities people living with Dementia retain, rather than the abilities that have been lost.

Photos submitted by Salem Home