Malton Village, Peel Region, the Toronto Star, June 23, 2018
Imagine living in a long-term care home with 8 to 12 people where the focus of care is on people and relies on emotional intelligence, the ability to understand another person’s feelings and respond with compassion. There are no task sheets such as the bath list, mobility list, or activity list. Activities are not scripted but rather there is a natural flow towards individual interests. People are helping to set the dining room table, peel potatoes, fold laundry, music is playing and laughter can be heard. Those with memory loss are allowed to live in their moments, which some may call humane dishonesty.
This is what is happening on the Redstone Dementia Unit at Malton Village. An elderly woman with dementia thinks she is 10 years old and is calling for her mother. The Butterfly Model approach is to try and understand what the woman is seeking. Is it comfort, love, or reassurance and if so the Butterfly program says give that to her instead of the truth. Another person, who doesn’t understand why the staff member wants to change his briefs, gets scared and defensive. His hand balls into a fist. With the emotion-based care approach, in this situation the staff member recognizes that the person is scared and decides to give him a big hug then says, let’s go to the toilet. They walk arm in arm down the hallway. More information can be found in “The Fix: Part 3”, The Toronto Star, June 23, 2018 which was republished in the Special Section: Crisis of Care, The Toronto Star, February 7, 2021.
The emotion-based approach to care is a learned approach and it takes time for staff to adapt to this new way of caring for and about those living in their home. Giving hugs, hand-holding, sitting down and spending time listening to those living in the home is the norm. And meeting the person where they are at becomes more important than telling the truth.