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Living with Dementia: The Habilitation Therapeutic Method

The Habilitation Therapeutic Method

At Hebrew SeniorLife, all of our direct care staff are trained in the “habilitation therapeutic method” when caring for clients with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Habilitation was developed in 1996 by Paul Raia and Joanne Koenig-Coste of the Massachusetts Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and has been successfully implemented in a variety of care settings nation-wide.

Habilitation is a comprehensive behavioral approach focusing on the individual’s remaining abilities versus what they have lost through their illness. In contrast, rehabilitation helps a person re-learn abilities that they have lost, and attempts to improve on their limitations. Habilitation continually aims to “meet the person where they are.” 

The goal of habilitation is to create and maintain a positive emotional state through the course of each day. The individual’s remaining abilities, emotions and morale are thoughtfully engaged to produce greater mental and social wellbeing.  Ample opportunities for success must be created, and challenging behaviors are often reduced or eliminated.

Habilitation therapy also helps caregivers have successful interactions with residents. When each interaction or task performed for or with the resident, and every aspect of the environment around the resident, is thoughtfully selected or adjusted, the resident-provider relationship is strengthened. Habilitation can be applied in almost any setting, and can be learned by family, friends and professionals alike.

There are 5 “Domains” of Habilitation Therapy:

Physical Environment—adapting the physical environment to foster independence, yet meet the social and emotional needs of each resident. We know that the environment can affect one’s mood and comfort, can be confusing or difficult to understand for the person with dementia. The physical environment should limit unnecessary distractions.

Communication—refocusing, redirecting and recognizing use of the resident’s body language to express needs vs. verbal communication. The caregiver also takes note of their body language and other non-verbal means of communication.

Purposeful Engagement—structured, failure-free, meaningful activities throughout the day help the individual to hold on to capabilities longer and maintain positive emotion. Research shows that well-planned activities can reduce boredom and challenging behaviors in persons with dementia.

Behavior as Communication—focus away from changing the individual’s challenging behaviors, but on changing the caregiver’s approach to care, or the physical environment.

Approach to Personal Care—encouraging independence in activities of daily living and prioritizing which activities are most important for the individual. Daily care is simplified and broken down into achievable steps. It is not just getting the job done—it involves engagement with the individual and promoting a sense of success with each task.

Memory Care at Assisted Living at NewBridge on the Charles 

NewBridge on the Charles offers the Gilda and Alfred A. Slifka Memory Care Assisted Living Residences to seniors with early stage and mid-stage Alzheimer's Disease and/or a related dementia. The Memory Care Assisted Living Residences at NewBridge on the Charles provides a personalized and meaningful assisted living experience for residents based on the history, preferences and goals of each individual. Short-term stays now available. 

Learn more about Memory Care at NewBridge

Make an appointment for Memory Disorders Testing

Elaine Abrams, MPH, RN, CHES's picture

About the Blogger

Program Manager, Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care at Hebrew Senior Life until June 2015

Elaine Abrams, MPH, RN, CHES, has more than 25 years of nursing, public health, and health education experience. Her areas of expertise include community health assessment, program development and management, and health communications. A graduate of University of Connecticut Graduate Program in Public Health, Elaine has held several leadership roles including President-elect at the Connecticut Public Health Association, the state affiliate of the American Public Health Association, where she also served for several years on the Board of Directors. 

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I was diagnosed with right front temporal early onset dementia about a year ago. I thought I would start finding out information before I get to the point I can't. I really like your Hebrew Senior Life Center. Can you tell me if ther7bbm7e is anything like this in Alabama?
Hi Ms. Rossi, we are sorry to hear about your dementia diagnosis. Please check your email for a response (and resources) from Hebrew SeniorLife.
Hi, I will be taking care of my children's father in about 2 weeks. He has diebetes and kidney disease he has to have dialysis 3 time a week also has dementia. Try to get my head wrap around all of this with information i can understand so i know what to that is best for him. If you could help i would be ever so grateful.. Thank you Tammy Zeller
Hi Ms. Zeller, Please check your email for a response (and resources) from Hebrew SeniorLife.
Dear Elaine, I am in charge of the care for my mother who is 96 years old. We have employed care givers whom I supervise. Recently my mother's primary care doctor has repeatedly told me that she thinks I have underestimated my mother's current memory condition but no formal diagnosis has been made. We are in Miami. I would like to receive more information on the Habilitation therapy that you suggest in this article to see if any of the protocols would be easy to implement. Thanks, Carol Horvitz Nutt, PhD
Hi Dr. Horvitz Nutt, Please check your email for a response (and resources) from Hebrew SeniorLife.

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