There is a commercial for Adidas shoes by Eugen Merher going around the internet right now. According to Boredpanda, apparently Merher made the ad as a spec spot (which is an ad you create for a product and you are not paid for it, but you use it basically as part of a demo reel for yourself) and sent it to Adidas, but did not get a response from them about it. The ad is so touching, it is making viewers cry, for good reason. We can all identify with the sadness that comes from having our identity taken away and not allowed to flourish. For me, the commercial is a powerful message about why we need person-centered care for people with dementia, and all people living in care communities (nursing home.)
In person-centered care, we see the person with dementia as an individual and we care for them in a way that honors their needs, wants, and individual desires as much as possible.
One of the first things taken away from a person with dementia is their role in life. We see the person as an illness and start putting limitations on them saying; “This person has dementia and can not longer do all of these things. This is not safe, and that is not safe, and they can not do this anymore.” In person-centered care, we look at abilities first, rather than limitations. We find out as much as we can about the person- what they like, dislike, what makes them happy- and we bring as much of the things they like into their life as possible.
In the Adidas ad, we first see a man living in a care community who is sad and despondent because he is not doing anything that engages him or makes him happy. Then he sees his old pair of Adidas running shoes and puts them on. He runs through the care community and tries to go outside to run, but every time, the staff at the care community stop him. What I find especially poignant is that as he is running to the door, we see other people who live in the care community attempting to do the things they love, but with no real way to do them: A man is watering a tv with a watering can and a woman is dancing with her arms out as if they are around someone, but no one is with her.
The other residents in the care community see the man trying to run and when the staff lock up the mans running shoes, a group of residents get into the locker and bring the man his running shoes. Then we see photos of the man, running in marathons when he was younger, and we see how this role of being a runner was taken from him and how badly he wants it back. He puts his shoes back on and the rest of the residents help him run and get outside again by blocking the care community staff from stopping him.
It is a beautiful advertisement, but one I think some people might not understand. Some people might think we cannot allow people with dementia to run or go outdoors because we hear of people with dementia getting lost all the time. However, in person-centered care, we would try to find a way to bring running back to this man. Here are some options:
Since the man can still run safely, he could be allowed to run, with a volunteer or with another resident who is more cognitively advanced, outside on a path around the care community. The man may even be able to run outside on the grounds by himself if the care community has a properly enclosed area that can be seen by staff.
It is even possible to let him run in the halls if there is a wing of the care community that is often empty.
We could provide him with large print books about running, or even just put together photos of runners for him to look at and talk about to a staff person or friend living in the community.
Some care communities partner with Kindergartens for intergenerational programming and the man could help teach the kids to run a small distance, even setting up a “race day” where the man helps create race medals for the kids after they have gone through sessions of training with him and their PE teacher.
We could provide an activity where he polishes leather running shoes or sorts pairs of running shoes back into their boxes.
People need to be allowed to do things they love, safely, even if they have dementia or are older with other limitations. There are many ways for us to help people with dementia maintain their roles and responsibilities, we just have to be creative. We have to look at their abilities, safety, and the resources of their environment and make something happen.
Person-centered care may sound like more work, but research shows that the more people with dementia are given activities that speak to them as an individual and allow them to maintain life roles they care about, the less behavioral issues there are. There is also a decrease in the use of psychotropic medications, and their quality of life goes way up. This leads to less work and strain for care community staff, leading to higher staff satisfaction and less staff turnover. Instead of navigating difficult behavior 24/7, the staff are guiding people through meaningful activities that bring them joy.
If you would like to learn more about person-centered care and receive training for either your care community staff or yourself to care for a family member, please fill out the contact form on the right side of this page.