Green House Blog

A New Definition for Dementia explored at Pioneer Network’s 2012 National Conference

To many, a person with dementia is a complex and misunderstood being, and currently the only way most people treat them is with medication.  Dr. Al Power, M.D., a board certified internist and geriatrician and Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester, New York couldn’t disagree more.  In fact, he told conference attendees today that the lessons learned with the culture change movement taking place in skilled nursing facilities could offer insight into dementia care.

Power told the group instead of looking inside the box…we need to get rid of the box!  He offered a new definition for the disease:  “Dementia is a shift in the way a person experiences the world around her/him.”

“Care should be individualized, putting the person before the disease,” explained Power, “We need a paradigm shift, to a person-directed, relationship-based model of care.”   The challenge is on us, the care partner according to Power to find a better way to communicate with those with dementia.  “We put them in places where they can’t succeed.  We need to go where they CAN succeed.”

Part of the approach would include an Experiential Audit, using “Well-being Domains”, i.e. Identity (Is my story known and understood by my care partners?), Autonomy (Do I have opportunities for choice and control throughout the day?), Security (Do I feel safe in my surroundings and do I trust those who provide my care?).

Power believes a physical, operational and personal transformation is needed for facilities and care partners working with those with dementia.  “You feel that when you walk into our Green House homes.”  Power serves as Eden Mentor at St. John’s Home, which opened two Green House homes earlier this year.

For more information about dementia and Dr. Al Power, you can contact him at: or at his website

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