Dementia Culture Change

Dementia Culture Change post page

By Debi Tyler NewsomDecember 18th, 2020

Dementia Culture Change

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by Debi Tyler-Newsom, OTR/L,

PAC Client Relations Director


If you thought that creating a new habit was challenging.

The term culture can be described as a group identity fostered by social patterns unique to the group. While the concept of culture can seem rather abstract and fuzzy, we have engaged in many conversations about cultural issues this year. Some of those topics have been addressed with much passion and a call for culture change.

One category of culture is organizational culture. Our society is made up of many types of organizations; professional, faith based, political, academic, environmental, etc. Organizational culture consists of beliefs and values that are shared by leaders, then communicated and reinforced in different ways, but with the goal of shaping understanding, conduct, and perspectives. A familiar example might be the topic of sexual harassment in the workplace. Organizations now typically set expectations of behavior to protect employees, provide required training, and have a system for reporting violations.

It is well-known that companies with positive cultures see improved productivity, performance, and revenue. Employees feel connected to and well-supported by their leadership. Because they feel aligned with the organization’s values, they are motivated to perform well and are more invested in the success of the company. What message does it send to a new parent that the employer provides onsite daycare at the workplace? Or a company that rewards creativity by compensating employees for ideas that save the company money?

Below are some interesting points shared by Norm Sabapathy, VP of People at the Cadillac Fairview Corporation, regarding how to make culture change that will stick.

  • Define a set of desired values and behaviors.
  • Align culture with strategy and processes.
  • Connect culture and accountability.
  • Have visible proponents.
  • Define the non-negotiables.
  • Align your culture with your brand.
  • Measure it.
  • Don’t rush it. 
  • Invest now.
  • Be bold and lead.

That’s quite a list isn’t it? How can we apply it to the healthcare world, where a common term is the culture of dementia care?  What does that mean for care organizations such as Memory Care Facilities, Dementia Units, and Alzheimers Care where the focus of care is specifically on those with cognitive change?

The list really speaks to the multiple layers necessary for culture change. Layers that involve a big picture focus and layers that dive into the details. The why might be addressed in the mission statement, and the how might be tackled in hiring policies and staff education. There is consistency in what the proponents (stakeholders, decision-makers) expect and their own behaviors. Even when resources are not available to do a major overhaul, small steps are boldly initiated. Change-makers are willing to engage in an ongoing, dynamic assessment of what is working and what needs to be modified. There is an attempt made to see changes from other points of view and provide necessary support. Asking staff to take on new responsibilities without providing them the time to learn and try out skills will create frustration and resistance.

Even though there is an eagerness to see culture shift, the desire is balanced with realistic expectations and the awareness that big changes take time and persistence. Just like creating a new habit takes much practice and repetition, culture change can take months, even years. Issues like staff turnover (or COVID), may shift priorities temporarily, but will not derail the effort or change the values that have been put into place.

PAC has relationships with many types of organizations that specialize in dementia care. We are contacted daily by professionals who represent their organizations and ask how they can change their culture of dementia care. Some have stumbled onto a YouTube video of Teepa and are eager to learn more and take a first step. Others have a long history of involvement with PAC and have taken many steps. Whether they started strong, and drifted off course, now seeking to re-set their focus, or just need a little support to continue towards their goals, we are here to help impact the culture of dementia care. What would a different culture of dementia care look like in your organization? How would it affect staff attitudes, and their sense of purpose? What would be the response of family members who feel so distant and helpless now?

PAC is here to help you change the culture of dementia care in your community? Contact us today.


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