National / Science & Health

French 'humanitude' method seen improving dementia patients' and staff conditions

by Fumiko Yamaoka

Kyodo

A method developed in France for providing care to people with dementia is growing in popularity among nursing homes in Japan, where dramatic improvements in the condition of both residents and staff have been reported.

“Humanitude,” which focuses on respecting each person’s dignity and independence, is considered effective in developing positive relationships between people working at welfare facilities as well as improving patients’ conditions.

With its name combining the words “human” and “attitude,” humanitude is a practical philosophy developed more than 30 years ago by physical education teacher Yves Gineste and his colleagues.

The method, introduced in Japan around 2012, calls for caregivers to build trust by looking into the eyes of patients and speaking to them gently, and refrain from grasping onto patients’ arms or feet.

Humanitude was originally designed for professional nurses to help patients stand on their feet in order to prevent them from being bedridden. Later, it was observed that the method also had the effect of alleviating the psychological burden of nurses.

In Japan, Miwako Honda, a doctor at the Tokyo Medical Center, is spearheading the campaign to spread the approach throughout the nursing care community. The center is one of the hospitals promoting the humanitude method in the country.

Honda’s team conducted a field study in Fukuoka in the fiscal year through March, covering 148 people who were taking care of elderly family members with dementia at home.

As part of the survey, Honda held a two-hour training session for participants to help deepen their understanding of the method. She continued to offer humanitude nursing advice by mailing postcards every week for three months after the training.

Among these helpful tips were making sure to knock on the door before entering the room and approaching patients from the front to avoid startling them.

Honda continued to follow up with the caregivers who took part in the session. The subsequent survey found caregivers experience less stress after attending to patients with the gentleness and kindness upheld by the approach.

The patients who went through care under the new approach acted less violently and wandered around less frequently, the results of the survey showed. Their verbal outbursts also lessened.

Yasunori Shimojima, 72, is taking care of his 66-year-old wife at their home.

After attending the training session, Shimojima began to speak to his wife, who has dementia, as softly as possible. Recently, she has shown trust by allowing him do whatever is necessary for her care, according to Shimojima. “I am happy and feel relieved,” he said.

Makoto Yamamoto, a 49-year-old worker at a welfare facility, is caring for his mother-in-law, who has dementia. He said she has become emotionally stable recently.

Every morning, Yamamoto holds his mother-in-law’s hand and, with a smile, says to her, “Please take care of yourself while I’m out for work.” His mother-in-law’s demeanor has been much calmer recently. Yamamoto said she had previously been confrontational at times.

Nursing staff at hospitals and care facilities acknowledged humanitude has changed behaviors toward both patients and staff.

Care workers at Midori no Sato, a nursing home in Yokohama, used the humanitude method on a man in his 90s who had rejected nursing support. Six month later, staff attending the man had become more active and committed to his recreational activities and walking exercises.

“Work morale must have heightened among staff after they faced residents more seriously,” said a senior official of the care home.

Saki Ishikawa, a 28-year-old nurse who teaches humanitude, said she had previously been inward-looking and struggled to build personal relations with other people. But the method taught her to become more outgoing and appreciate time spent with colleagues.

“I was able to change myself in the process of learning the humanitude method as a communication skill,” she said.