Jodi Wiley has had plenty of experience with Alzheimer's disease. She had already watched her mother slip away from the disease when it became necessary for her to care for her father, Joseph Dombovy as well.
Jodi had moved her dad to her Gillette home when Joseph experienced a bout of dizziness. Jodi took him to the emergency department, and from there, everything changed. At that point, it became clear to Jodi that she could no longer care for her father and his mental state was only further deteriorating.
"I've been dealing with Alzheimer's for 15 years with my mother and then my dad," Jodi said. "There was no way I could take him home again."
Understanding Jodi's situation, Campbell County Health staff worked to support Jodi's decision and move along the process of transitioning him into Pioneer Manor's Memory Support Unit (MSU). The care and support of the staff while Joseph was in the hospital helped her during a difficult and challenging time, Jodi said.
"Everybody was so attentive and helpful," Jodi aid. "I felt like I was the only person in the hospital. I felt a whole lot of compassion."
After moving Joseph to Pioneer Manor's MSU, she said once again she was overwhelmed by the support and kindness not only offered to her father, but to her as well. From the nurses to the social worker, Jodi was surrounded by support and understanding of her father's condition and his needs.
"It was just a real smooth transition," Jodi said. "Those people are angels. Those people are so wonderful who do this every day."
Taking that emotional burden off of the family members is only part of the work the staff at Pioneer Manor's MSU undertakes. Administrator Jonni Belden said the secure unit provides a safe environment for residents and the staff works with each resident individually to understand and meet their needs.
"It's a tremendously difficult decision," Jonni said. "It's like watching someone fade away before their eyes. We help people understand it's not the person, it's the disease."
With specialized staff such as social worker and certified dementia practitioner Cindy Rasnic in the MSU, residents receive quality care and specialized treatment. In addition, the loving, consistent care provided in the MSU helps residents adjust to the new surroundings and even find a place of contentment there.
The newest feature for residents includes the Snoezelen room, or controlled multisensory environment, that serves as a quiet therapeutic room to residents. Utilizing black lighting and a quiet, calm atmosphere, the Snoezelen room provides many benefits to residents, Jonni said. Building off of that, MSU keeps a consistent staff so residents aren't constantly undergoing changes, which are difficult for people with Alzheimer's disease or forms of dementia.
"We have very consistent staffing there," Jonni said. "We try very hard to minimize the stimulation."
With growing national attention of the over medication of dementia patients, the staff in the MSU makes the use of psychotropic medication a last resort. The national goal for psychotropic medication usage is six percent and Jonni said the MSU staff prides itself on a 3.6 percent usage rate.
"It allows people to have a great quality of life without the side effects," Jonni said. "Because they're not able to verbalize a lot of things, our goal is to find out what's causing the behavior. It's all about assessing their needs and treating them as individuals."
From providing a baby doll for one lady to rock to giving one resident items to disassemble, the staff keeps residents connected to parts of their lives they still remember and cling to. With a low stimulation environment and use of music and other therapies, the residents are able to stay calm.
For Jodi, it's the simple things like seeing the nurses talk to her father about everyday things and having them redirect him to other activities when he's having a bad day. It's also the comfort in knowing that he's being well-taken care of and the people who care for him are focused on his best interest.
"I know in my heart he's being taken care of," Jodi said. "I know he'll be OK and it's the greatest sense of relief I have."
November is Alzheimer's Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s is a complex neurological disease that is the most common form of dementia. More than 5 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s and more than 10 million are caring for a loved one with the disease. You can learn more about this disease as well as find resources for caregivers at The Alzheimer's Association,
www.alz.org. During the month of November, you can honor a Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers by sharing a personal tribute message on their page:
Article written by Kim Phagan-Hansel, Wyoming freelance writer