In late June 2021, the Living Branches community wished the former director of dementia care strategy, Kathleen Roberts, the very best in her retirement. After Kathleen’s eight years of service to Living Branches residents, as well as her work with local researchers, universities, and other industry experts, we reflected on the interconnected nature of the following programs:
- Montessori programs
- Creative arts therapy
- Life enrichment activities
To better capitalize on each of these programs’ strengths, and maximize the value they bring to residents, Living Branches made the decision to merge the three into one cohesive department known as resident engagement.
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Meet the Director
Living Branches was excited to welcome Annette Echanis aboard as the director of resident engagement. In this new position, Annette leads a group of staff persons that are spread across all three Living Branches campuses, but share the common goal of providing residents with person-centered care through meaningful and interesting activities.
Annette joined the Living Branches team with ample previous experience in Personal Care and retirement communities, including the position of a Memory Care director. Her work with Memory Care and Montessori stems from a personal connection to dementia; she served as a family caregiver for her father. That experience sparked her interest in learning more about opportunities for engagement for persons living with dementia.
When describing Living Branches’ resident engagement department, Annette has described it as an “umbrella of programs” that are designed around the person-centered philosophy of care. This method of resident engagement allows our teams to keep the interests and needs of individual residents at the forefront while creating activities and events for each community or level of care. Thus Living Branches residents are offered a number of opportunities to engage with their community in ways that are interesting and meaningful to them.
Underneath the umbrella of programs that comprise the resident engagement department are:
- Each level of care at Souderton Mennonite Homes, The Willows of Living Branches, and Dock Woods has a team who takes responsibility for ensuring there are a variety of activities in which residents can participate. The first step in the process is to understand what residents like to do, and then tailoring that interest into an activity. It is important to have a mix of both active and passive activities (cardio drumming, for example, followed by a bible study), as well as choices that address the Seven Dimensions of Wellness (link: https://www.icaa.cc/activeagingandwellness/wellness.htm).
- Volunteers are welcomed from inside and outside of the community to assist with and/or lead activities.
- Life enrichment continues to implement Montessori principles into its programming, which requires staff to know each resident, know what they like to do, what they are capable of doing, and the ways in which they would enjoy contributing to community life. This relatively new and innovative practice will further empower residents and fulfill their sense of purpose.
Creative Arts Therapy
- Seth Laucks, licensed creative arts therapist
- Affiliation with many local colleges and universities allows creative arts therapy students to gain hands-on experience while interning at Living Branches.
- Residents also benefit from forming inter-generational relationships with creative arts therapy interns, and the program overall is strengthened from the new, creative ideas students bring from their studies.
- Creative arts therapy uses art such as music, painting, and dance as a means of expression, which Living Branches residents can enjoy in a social, group setting, or a therapeutic one-on-one basis.
Music and Memory Program
- Similarly to creative arts therapy, Living Branches’ music and memory program uses music for therapeutic purposes, but takes on a different form – electronic. This program involves curating a specific list of songs that resonates with an individual resident.
- By listening to a playlist of songs that have been loaded onto an MP3 player, research supports that residents are brought closer to loved ones and memories.
If you happen to come across Annette at any one of our three campuses, be sure to say hello! With a kind smile and friendly demeanor, she’ll be glad to get to know you. Moving forward in her role, she is excited to continue providing residents with engagement opportunities that bring purpose and joy into their lives.