Makenzie Shanahan, RN & All Care’s Director of Hospice with Alzheimers Kit 

Always striving to provide the best care and quality of life for its patients, All Care Hospice recently restructured its Dementia and Sensory Program. With almost half of All Care’s Hospice census being comprised of patients with Alzheimer’s, the team knew there was a need and an opportunity for improvement. The overall goal is to provide patients with an optimal quality of life and in their connection with their loved ones and caregivers.

The idea to revamp the program was based on feedback from staff. All Care’s Director of Hospice and Palliative Care, Makenzie Shanahan, RN, said “As Hospice providers we felt it was our responsibility to educate family and caregivers on ways interact with Alzheimer’s patients and provide them with various tools to enhance their connections with loved ones. Family and friends often search for new and innovative ways to interact with a loved one who has advanced Alzheimer’s. They are often searching for new ways to connect with them. Shanahan said that she and the staff knew this was an opportunity to improve the current Dementia and Sensory Program.

The Dementia and Sensory Program is a non-pharmacological approach to care which focuses on providing meaningful connections, comfort, and improved quality of life for these patients. All Care Hospice knows every person is unique and their care needs must be individualized, so a “Get to Know Me” tool was developed. The tool guides the team in gathering information about the person such as family life, personal interests, hobbies and more. The information is shared with the hospice team, so everyone understands who the person is. Learning about their history, preferences, dislikes, and how they respond to personal care is an essential part of every assessment.

One of the most successful ways to build and maintain a connection with the patient, is through sensory stimulation. All Care’s newly resigned Sensory Kit includes carefully chosen items to help broaden interaction with each patient and using the four senses sight, sound, touch and smell. The kits are assembled by Hospice volunteers and are specific to each patient’s individual needs. Each kit includes a detailed program guide and a quick reference book for caregivers on how understand behavior and communicate with the patient. Items in the bag may include, brightly colored face cloths, a stress ball, hand lotion, an ergonomically designed crayon and coloring pages based on the patient’s interests.

If used on a regular basis, sensory stimulation activities can decrease agitation, reduce restlessness and improve general sense of wellbeing for Alzheimer’s patients. Since the fall of 2019, All Care Hospice has distributed approximately 100 kits. The response has been incredibly positive from patients, staff and families. All Care Hospice will continue to use feedback to improve and evolve the program. The All Care Sensory Kit is not just a bag; it is a tool to re-connect families with their loved ones during the final months of a person’s journey with Alzheimer’s.