Vista Center Adopts New Approach for Dementia

MINERAL RIDGE, Ohio – As the care of dementia patients has shifted, staff at Vista Center at the Ridge are working to stay on the front edge of treatment.

It used to be that many health care professionals believed nothing could be done but wait out the disease until the patient died, said the center’s director of nursing, Kathi Navarro.

“What we have found is that they still laugh, cry and voice how they feel,” she said. “They can still enjoy the treasures they did when they were young. It’s about bringing those treasures back.”

So, nurses at Vista Center have worked to create personalized treatment plans for each dementia patient. The plans are consistent from day-to-day, providing each patient with a sense of normality.

“We have to be consistent with safety, with dining and with activities to get them involved,” Navarro said. “It’s improved the lives of those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.”

It was for their efforts in improving the lives of those patients that the Vista Center received the Excellence in Care Dementia Program of Distinction award from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. The center is the second in Ohio so designated.

The award required that all staff, from nurses to office workers to maintenance, be trained in working with dementia patients. Other criteria include being “recognized as a model of dementia care in your community” and “be a dementia care resource” for families, according to the Alzheimer’s Foundation.

Nursing staff took eight hours of training, said Vickie Heller, clinical operations manager for Vista Care Centers, and support staff went through four. Vista Care Centers is the parent of Vista Center at the Ridge.

“If a resident is becoming agitated at the end of the day and a housekeeper sees it, the housekeeper can recognize that and tell a nurse what’s going on,” Heller explained. “They can immediately put an intervention in place before the patient becomes so agitated that they’re physically unwell.”

The program at Vista Center also plays an important role in the care of patients, Heller said. Among them is the Music and Memory program. There, residents are given an MP3 player with some of their favorite songs.

“Everyone knows music from the moment of birth to the moment of death. We’ve included that and it’s been a major part of working with patients,” Navarro said.

Lynn Parker said the music program has done wonders for her father, who has dementia and lives at the center.

“When he hears it, it changes his entire behavior. He lights up, he’s more active and we love it,” she said. “It’s changed him personally, almost like he comes alive through the music.”

Vista Center at the Ridge also has female- and male-only residences for dementia patients – Nora’s Place and Bratton Court, respectively. Bratton Court is the only all-male unit in the state, while Mary’s Center at Vista Care Center in Lisbon is the other female-only ward.

Nora’s Place was started because female dementia patients tend to become anxious and occasionally fearful, Heller said, especially around men.

“By bringing them into a fully female unit, it’s more nurturing and supportive,” she said. “We saw women who had otherwise been uncommunicative, sitting in a corner, not interacting, begin to sit with other women, share a cup of coffee and tell stories. It made a huge difference.”

Bratton Court was founded five years ago and, despite early hesitation, has proven just as successful.

“We originally thought to stay away from an all-male unit because we thought that once the behaviors started, it’d be a bad thing,” Heller said. “We saw that the fellas treated it like a man cave. They play games with each other, walk around with each other and watch sports. It’s a comfortable, supportive environment for them.”

By improving the living arrangements, daily schedules — even the activities offered — Vista Center at the Ridge has increased the quality of life for patients, regardless of whether they have dementia, and the patients and their families have noticed it.

“I notice that they make the extra effort to have programs that are helpful and individualized to each person, which is what I love most,” Parker said. “I know that my dad is taken care of. They’re concerned about his needs. Even though he can’t do all the things he once did, they help him be a part of society.”

Pictured:  Announcing the award are David Tikkanen, administrator at the Mineral Ridge nursing home, assistant director of nursing Missy Brewer, director of nursing Kathi Navarro, Vista Care Centers chief operating officer Tracy D’Andrea and Vicki Heller, clinical operations manager.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.