LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - It's a disease that affects more than five million Americans and the numbers are growing. Dementia causes various stages of memory loss and confusion, that's why nursing home staff believe safety is vital.
Juli Cook has been working with dementia patients for 24 years. "People with dementia will many times try to leave and go home," said Cook, Director of Admissions/Marketing at Pinecrest Retirement Center.
It's what she refers to as "elopement." She said the state requires dementia care programs certain safety procedures, like a secured key pad. "If they do wander off, they can't leave and put themselves in danger," said Cook.
Down the road, at Southland Health Care Center, 70% of their residents suffer from dementia. "It's our job to know where our patients are, what they are doing, so that we're able to meet their needs," said Gloria Bean, RN at Southland Health Care Center.
In both nursing homes, you have to punch a code to get in and out of the unit. "Of course the staff checks on the resident on a regular basis and there's another whole procedure in case a resident is missing and a whole protocol that you have to follow if that ever arises," said Cook.
There are different stages of dementia. Some nursing homes evaluate the seriousness of the disease, to determine if the home meets the patients' needs. "For those residents that do that, that would try to leave the facility we do not accept them," explained Andrea Hill, Stallings Court Nursing Home. "We do have staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but accidents do happen."
Cook said the disease can span more than twenty years. It's an evolving sickness and each case is different.
"Each person's journey through this disease process is unique and it's their own experience," said Cook.
For those of you that have family members that suffer from dementia, Cook said there is a support group that meets once a month. Click here for more information, or call Juli Cook at 936-633-1118.