Members Work Together To Put Comfort First

Two CHHSM members formed a partnership this year to provide maximum comfort for residents with advanced dementia.

Horizon House in Seattle wanted to fine-tune its individualized care. The continuing care retirement community reached out to Phoenix-based Beatitudes Campus, also a CCRC and creator of Comfort Matters, a nationally recognized dementia research and education initiative.

“We’re really excited,” says Tena Alonzo, director of Comfort Matters. “There is nothing like working with sister organizations who are equally interested in advocating for folks who are vulnerable.”

Julie Jorgensen, director of nursing services at Horizon House, says her team read clips from The New York Times and The New Yorker featuring Comfort Matters and the research-based care it encourages. Once she’d visited the team in Phoenix, she knew her team could benefit from forming a relationship with the like-minded organization.

“I think the foundational principles of Comfort Matters is respecting and honoring the personhood of who you are caring for with dementia,” Jorgensen says. “That’s where our heart is and we could sense that’s where their heart is as well.”

In its first decade, Beatitudes’ Comfort Matters initiative has educated thousands of people at organizations from many states and at least 20 countries on dementia care. The program transforms the way organizations implement individualized care, encouraging team members to find out what’s important to each resident. Activities may include spritzing a resident with a familiar perfume, finding a favorite song or cooking waffles in the middle of the night.

“Partnering with Beatitudes and benefiting from its groundbreaking work in dementia care not only empowers our staff, but enables them to engage more fully with our residents,” says Horizon House CEO Sara McVey.

Beatitudes Campus President and CEO Michelle Just says the relationship between the two organizations developed out of their participation in CHHSM.

“Beatitudes Campus and Horizon House have had many opportunities throughout the years to share innovative ideas and best practices for serving the broad spectrum of needs of older adults,” Just says. “Through the natural partnership of CHHSM’s Senior Services Collaborative, Horizon House became keenly interested in our highly acclaimed program, Comfort Matters.”

The partnership between the two organizations started with Beatitudes sending team members to Horizon house for on-site training and continued throughout the year with biweekly coaching conference calls and occasional site visits. Alonzo says Comfort Matters has updated its curriculum seven times throughout the year, sharing additional research-backed information as it becomes available, such as how to learn more about a resident’s cultural background when he or she is no longer able to verbally communicate.

Jorgensen pulled in the medical staff at Horizon House and several hospice partners for some of the training so that everyone could be on the same page with palliative care near the end of their residents’ lives. This includes, for instance, discontinuing medications that may prolong a resident’s life but cause discomfort.

Horizon House is now going through the process to become one of the first Comfort Matters-accredited CCRCs in the country.

Jorgensen is proud of the changes she’s already seen in the community.

“This really gave people permission to be empowered to do what’s best for the resident,” she says.

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