As the Silent Generation continues to age and the first of the Baby Boomers are officially seniors, the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease continues to rise. Anyone who is currently experiencing a loved one with Alzheimer’s knows first hand how important senior memory care is in maintaining a comfortable and safe environment.
It is quite common for persons with dementia diagnose to become disoriented. Over 60% of individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s become confused when they stand up from where they are sitting. So the question asked is, “What can we do to minimize confusion for residents with dementia?” Retirement communities design memory care areas with this question in mind. And the answer is something they call “safe environments”.
One of the hardest parts of being in a memory care community is saying goodbye to visitors. Senior memory care areas are designing hidden-in-plain-sight vestibules between the living space and the exit to make the farewells less traumatic for both the resident and the family members. Wall murals or sensory walls are also incorporated to promote a calm feeling for residents who feel restless or confused.
In addition to the physical environment, the staff involved in senior memory care areas is also crucially important. We train staff to understand how dementia and Alzheimer’s affects people, what a good day or a bad day may look like, how to comfort a resident who is sad or disoriented, etc. As they work in the senior memory care area, they begin to develop relationships with the residents and their families. They know their food preferences, favorite music, life history, and also things like potential triggers that may upset them.
Stimulating the Mind
Senior memory care communities understand the importance of learning the latest research findings, as much work is being done to understand dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Living Branches hired Kathleen Roberts as the director of dementia care strategy in 2016. One of her initiatives is to implement the Music & Memory program, which supplies personalized playlists to residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s in an effort to reverse the effects of the disease. Creativity is stored in scattered areas throughout the brain, versus facts and figures, which are often stored in one area. Stimulating the brain’s creative centers can help awaken areas throughout the brain – even at the end-stages of dementia.
Living Branches has three memory care areas (Park View at Souderton Mennonite Homes and Harmony House and Country Cottage at Dock Woods) – so clearly, there is rich soil to till within our own walls in terms of cultivating the great practices that are currently in place and continuous ideas that sprout, spreading them throughout Living Branches.