May 11, 2010

Lakeview Ranch for Specialized Dementia Care Is Fulfilling a Promise One Patient at a Time

Judy’s mother was labeled as an “aggressive-behavior” patient because she would trip caregivers and patients when they walked by. In 7 years her mom was thrown out of 12 separate facilities because of her behavior.....
By Tom Ratcliff

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine spending the rest of your life surrounded by a thick, towering glass wall.

You can see the people around you but you can’t understand what their saying.

You try to speak out and tell them you’re scared and feel like you’re going crazy but you can’t remember the words even though you still feel the emotional pain.

Months and even years go by and nothing has changed except the people outside no longer bother to look at you. Even your children give you an emotionless stare implying you’re probably already dead but your body just doesn’t know it yet.

Can you think of anything more horrifying? Can you imagine anyone living such a hopeless and frightening existence?

There are thousands living this nightmare everyday – they’re severely-impaired dementia patients! They have lost their ability to communicate, but they still hear us, they just can’t answer back.

How many times do you think a dementia patient has heard, “Don’t worry your mother doesn’t understand a darn thing we’re saying.” “There is no one home upstairs.” Then they look over at mother and she is trembling and crying uncontrollably. She wants to tell them she is aware but her brain won’t allow her to.

Judy Berry lived this experience when her mother was stricken with dementia. Judy’s mother was labeled as an “aggressive-behavior” patient because she would trip caregivers and patients when they walked by. In 7 years her mom was thrown out of 12 separate facilities because of her behavior.

Judy's mother spent her last year of life tied up to a chair and drugged into oblivion to keep her compliant. During this period of time, Judy wasn’t able to find a facility that could make a positive difference in her mother’s life because they all thought her mom was irretrievably lost to her illness, and they would only provide custodial care to keep her clean and fed.

At 55 years of age Judy Berry gave up a successful career and made a lifelong commitment to change the Face of Dementia Care in our society and to be an advocate for all seniors with dementia in a quest to maintain their Basic Human Rights to Dignity, Choice and Quality of Life until death.

With a handful of skillfully trained and experienced health care workers and a modest savings account, Judy took the first step in fulfilling her promise and opened Lakeview Ranch for Specialized Dementia Care.

These are Judy’s words,
“With the help of 15 seasoned health care workers I started this project 8 years ago. The Lakeview Ranch Model of Specialized Dementia Care has proven that these unspoken and unmet needs are the underlying cause of most challenging and aggressive behavior and the #1 reason for all the rampant unnecessary hospitalizations and overmedication that has sent healthcare costs spiraling out of control to say nothing of robbing our seniors of the dignity and quality of life they so deserve.”

The Lakeview Ranch Model of Specialized Dementia Care gives her residents the tender-loving care she wished for her mother. Right now there are 80 caregivers for 30 dementia care residents. The care is intensive, very personal and immediate. With the appropriate care, and attention from the caregivers the aggressive behavior begins to fade away because ALL of the resident’s needs are being met, especially the emotional ones.
“These patients are really scared and confused because they don’t know what is wrong with them. Once we gain their trust and develop a bonding relationship they begin to respond to us positively in a lot of ways,” said Judy Berry.
Judy provides regular rigorous training for her staff. She teaches them the reason the dementia resident is acting-out or better yet reaching-out is because they have unmet needs and they don’t know how to express it in words any longer. But, by working closely with the resident every day the caregiver begins to understand the resident’s attention-getting-behavior and is able to fulfill their needs.

They also use animal therapy to stimulate the residents. They utilize dogs, cats, and even miniature horses (for grooming). Animals are a perfect match for dementia residents. There can be mutual love and companionship without a word being spoken.

All of this doesn’t come easy – it is hard work that requires the patience of a Saint and the heart of Sister Teresa, but Judy finds the right people who are willing to intervene on behalf of some of the most challenging dementia patients. As a result, these senior dementia patients get to live their lives out in a loving environment surrounded by people who are totally devoted to their safety and care.

It’s Judy’s dream that someday her model of care would be accepted across the nation. She has been a very active advocate with Alzheimer associations and with the state government of Minnesota.

To learn more about Judy Berry’s work please visit Lakeview Ranch. You may also learn more about their foundation, the Dementia Care Foundation.

Tom Ratcliff is the current Co-owner of the National Senior Living Providers Network. Senior Care Jobs.

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