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2020 ARGENTUM AWARDS


BEST OF THE BEST Connect First Benchmark


MAKING THE CONNECTION TO QUALITY


Behavior is communication—even when it’s challenging. Benchmark’s Connect First program teaches how to under- stand what behavior is saying, turn potential negatives into positives, and discern when emergency support may be needed.


It centers the person with dementia, focusing on individu-


alized approaches and using behavior tracking and critical thinking to listen to what residents may be “saying” through their behavior, so caregivers can meet their needs and reduce anxiety on both sides of the relationship. “The world of dementia can be filled with continuous misin- terpretations of the environment and generate feelings of fear and anxiety,” writes Benchmark in its description of the pro- gram. “A shift in our perspective must occur in order to adopt a positive approach to behavioral expressions…The strategies are a proactive philosophy to evoke positive emotions and reduce negative emotional triggers.”


Positive approaches It’s on the caregiver to, in effect, learn to speak the language


of behavior as well. The Positive Human Connection Strate- gies Training gives associates ways to approach and physi- cally interact with people that encourage support, not the fear that can result when cognitive disabilities can limit reliability of the senses or of understanding. These include best practices such as dementia expert Teepa Snow’s “hand under hand” technique—connecting without imposing. Tracking tools and communication huddles help the whole team with data on when, where, and what circumstances are around a challenging behavioral expression, so a solution that helps that person can be better translated, so to speak, and a positive communication can be made instead.


Making fast decisions When a challenging behavior escalates, it’s difficult for resi-


Benchmark’s Mind & Memory Team: Daria Rabkin, memory care specialist; Erin Jordan, memory care clinical specialist; Michelle Tristani, corporate director of memory care; and Melanie Barbieri, memory care specialist (pre-COVID-19 photo).


dents and associates alike. Emergency medical services can be disruptive and frightening for the whole community. Con- nect First trains in effective ways to solve problems and make decisions at these times. Teams explore solutions and review incidents to gain wisdom and practice in critical thinking in an escalated situation.


Benchmark is collecting data on factors including emer- gency room visits, family surveys, and associate surveys, and plans to enhance data collection through a new electronic health system. It also plans to implement a nursing assistant ladder program with the protocol and explore teaming up with researchers in its headquarters area around Boston.


34 SENIOR LIVING EXECUTIVE JULY/AUGUST 2020


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