In the beginning, we offered aromatherapy and spa baths, with our signature scents and relaxing foot massages. But the idea of holistic has evolved into such areas as making sure the medications our residents take are right and necessary, and advocating with their families and physicians to provide a personalized program of care.
Holistic also means offering alternative ways to boost memory and health, through exercise, proper eating and hydration, and finding ways each day to keep our residents fully engaged in life.
For a real-life example of how our holistic approach helped one resident, read "Aggie's Amazing Story," written by Highgate team member Crissy Kamps:
"In late October, we received a phone call from the local hospital. They had a patient with end-stage Alzheimer's Disease, whom they needed to discharge as soon as possible. They didn't expect her to live more than two weeks and had ordered hospice care.
We asked the family to come and tour and as we showed them available apartments and explained our care program, they described how Aggie had come to this point. At her prior home, Aggie was falling daily. She was hardly getting out of bed or coming out of her room. She had stopped eating. Being diabetic, the lack of proper nutrition had caused her blood sugar levels to spiral out of control. Finally she had an episode where she was in need of critical care and was sent to the hospital.
The hospital staff decided Aggie was at the end of her life and took her off all medications and monitoring. The family prepared for her passing and had her minister come and offer a final blessing. When we went to the hospital to assess her, we found a very frail and weak lady and we, too, agreed we would be providing end-of-life care. Aggie arrived the next day with all three of her children who stayed the rest of the day with her. She was surprisingly alert and questioned where she was. She was very thin, pale and could not stand on her feet. The second day she was very confused and tired, sleeping most of the day. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to get her to eat. On Aggie's third day with us, the staff assisted her in getting out of bed at 6:00 a.m. and poured her a cup of coffee. She seemed a bit more energetic. She was restless and kept questioning her children's whereabouts. She thought her children were also staying with us and kept insisting we bring them to her.
From one day to the next Aggie surprised us. On her fourth day she was taken to the dining table and given coffee as we read her the morning newspaper. Asked how she felt, she replied she felt like having two hard-boiled eggs with toast! We were so pleased she was asking to eat. The eggs were boiled and the bread was toasted and Aggie shocked us all by eating the entire meal! You could see the joy in her face to have her appetite back. That whole day Aggie was alert and talked with the staff and other residents. We were amazed at how keen she actually was. Each day Aggie got better and better. Her appetite continued to improve as we prepared food for her when she felt hungry and offered liquids at every opportunity.
After one week the hospice nurse came to see Aggie and was astonished by the change in Aggie's condition. During the second week, Aggie began involving herself in the daily activities. Our structured and stimulating environment was just what she needed. She enjoyed the music and sing-alongs, the morning exercises and afternoon tea time. The family-style meals helped her maintain a sense of belonging. She was forming friendships and seemed happy in her new surroundings.
She rarely stayed in her bed or room, preferring instead to be in the middle of the goings-on. It was so rewarding to see the changes with her health. After three weeks, Aggie began ambulating with staff assistance for short distances. Her family expressed their delight at every visit. They asked us to get her hair done in our salon. It amazed us all to see how great she looked. Everyone who saw her told her how beautiful she looked and she just smiled all day, beaming with happiness and pride. Several times a day Aggie would tell us how wonderful Highgate Cottage is and how wonderful the staff is, as well. We'd tell her she was wonderful for saying so.
Forty-five days after Aggie arrived, the family was told by hospice they might take her off hospice care. She had gained seven pounds by then! Aggie's family was very pleased and excited. Every visit they would ask if she gained any more weight. At just 50 days with us, Aggie started to walk with the use of a walker with staff standing by. She continued to gain weight as her overall health improved. We have so enjoyed getting to know the "real" Aggie. Aggie has a ready smile and also an assertive personality. She tells us if she thinks it's time to set up for lunch – or not. She's always ready for a visit. She takes pride in how she's dressed and how she looks. She seldom misses any activities. The highlight of her week comes on Fridays when she attends our Catholic services where she receives communion.
This is the greatest reward for our efforts; to see someone have a little longer to experience joy and happiness. With just our love and encouragement we can inspire someone to hold on a little longer, to look forward to another day."
We believe proper care by compassionate professionals, good nutrition, adequate hydration, physical movement, spiritual sustenance and social engagement can make a world of difference in an elderly person's health and quality of life.
It takes extra time, attention and energy to provide this support to every resident, but that's why we're here. That's why we're in the business. That's what makes us Highgate.