Waynesboro student highlights ways to improve Dementia care – WHSV

WAYNESBORO, Va. (WHSV) – On Monday, a Waynesboro High School student presented a project to a number of clinicians that she hopes will help improve their care of patients with dementia.

Mya Row is a senior at Waynesboro High School who attends the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School. Since August, she has been working on a capstone project highlighting activities that help keep those with dementia engaged and involved through each stage of the illness.

“The Allen Cognitive scale is how healthcare clinicians range Dementia patients. It starts at level one which is end-stage dementia that is the worst stage and it goes all the way to level six which is where the patient has no dementia. So, I’m going over activities that you can do at each stage,” said Row.

For her project, Row spent over 40 hours shadowing two nurse practitioners from Valley Family & Elder Care and visited a number of assisted living facilities across the Shenandoah Valley. Being inside these facilities, Row saw a need that she decided to focus her project on.

“I noticed that not many clinicians knew how to treat patients who had dementia or kind of approach them, so I am doing this in hopes that they can kind of learn how they can approach patients,” she said.

Row has a family member with Dementia, so the issue hits close to home. She has first-hand experience with a number of the activities she presented to the clinicians.

“So one activity involves baby clothes or washcloths and these are for level one and two dementia patients kind of near the end stages. You can put their favorite scents on the washcloths and put it in their hands and they can recognize it and know for example that it’s time for a bath or shower,” she said.

“That’s kind of how dementia is when they get to the end stage they forget a lot of their basic activities for daily living (ADLs) so some of these activities will help the patients with the activities they do every day,” she said.

Throughout her research Row also worked with a certified Dementia practitioner who she consulted throughout the process.

“It was wonderful to see someone who is so young recognize that health care is really missing this important component of aging and recognizing that dementia care is something that really needs to be addressed,” said Laura Mast, community care regional program director for Encompass Health.

“There’s a whole world out there of different things that can help us stay connected with family members and community members that are struggling with dementia,” Mast added.

Mast said activities that keep people engaged can have huge benefits for those progressing through the stages of dementia.

“In the beginning, the early stages…crossword puzzles, things like that, things that you’re still familiar with and have value to your daily routine,” she said.

For those with a loved one dealing with dementia, Mast stressed the importance of meeting them where they’re at.

“Keeping things familiar, reminiscing such as photographs, you want to always have kind of a success in whatever you’re doing, so you want to leave that activity on a happy note if you’re getting frustrated move onto a different activity,” Mast said.

Mya Row hopes her presentation was helpful to the healthcare clinicians who attended.

“I hope people will be able to understand dementia more, kind of like my family and I do. We deal with it every day and I hope that healthcare workers can learn how to better deal with it as well.”

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