Best Friends Approach

A specialized training program offers tools for caregivers and people living with dementia


For more than two decades, the Best Friends Approach™ to Dementia Care has empowered caregivers to help people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias feel safe, secure and valued and live their lives with dignity.

“The principle is that what a person with dementia needs most is a well-informed best friend,” says Padmaja Genesh, learning specialist at the Alzheimer Society of Calgary, where all staff members and volunteers have received training in the approach.

Renowned Alzheimer’s and memory care experts David Troxel and Virginia Bell developed the approach in Kentucky in the 1990s. The “best friend” can be a family member, friend or professional caregiver. The training helps caregivers acknowledge the person “beneath the cloak of dementia.” It provides information on how dementia impacts the brain and the types of behaviours to expect at different stages of the disease. It also teaches communication strategies and ways to help the person with dementia experience meaningful engagement throughout the day.

The caregiver and the person with dementia develop a customized, relationship-based approach to treating the disease. “They look at how the person with dementia wants things to be done,” Genesh says.

The Alzheimer Society of Calgary has an exclusive license to train the approach in Alberta, and Genesh trains more than 1,000 health-care workers each year. The Society also trains nearly 200 family caregivers in the approach annually.

Family caregivers often leave the training with a more positive outlook, says Genesh. “They take the training and leave feeling more empowered.”  [ ] 

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Did You Know? The Best Friends Approach™ is one technique for connecting with people living with dementia. Next issue, learn more about the Montessori Method for dementia.