Posted on February 20, 2021 by Ajla Bedzetovic
At 94, Gloria had hardly ever washed her own hair, relying instead on regular visits to the beauty parlor. After moving to Atria, she kept up her routine at the community’s salon until it closed temporarily due to COVID-19.
That’s when Kelly Burnett, the community’s Life Guidance Memory Care Director, voluntarily took over washing and styling Gloria’s hair.
“That’s not her job, but she knows how important it is to my mother” said Gloria’s son, Bill. “It’s a great example of how caring the staff is. I’ll remember that forever.”
When Joe first moved to Atria, he was depressed. He’d just completed rehabilitation for a stroke, relied on a walker to get around and was developing mild symptoms of dementia.
Despite daily invitations to join his neighbors for gatherings and events, Joe stayed inside his apartment. But staff members didn’t give up. They continued their visits several times a day to say hello, check in and gently urge him to venture out.
It took a few weeks of patient encouragement before Joe started leaving his apartment. Soon he was participating in nearly every event.
“Everyone moves at their own pace,” said Tomika Polk, Divisional Director of Life Guidance Memory Care Operations. “Once Joe realized he could trust the people he lived with, he blossomed.”
Caring for the individual
No two people experience Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia the same way. The symptoms, behaviors and rate of disease progression look different for each individual.
Memory care at Atria is highly personalized to each resident, with one-to-one attention and support from caring staff in a secure, thoughtfully designed setting. Residents also enjoy daily opportunities to engage in meaningful pursuits such as art workshops, discussion groups and fitness classes.
Having worked in dementia care since 1993, Ron Bowen, Divisional Director of Life Guidance Memory Care Operations at Atria, says getting to know an individual’s likes and dislikes, personal history and what makes them tick is especially important when caring for a person with dementia.
“We want to understand the essence of a resident,” Bowen said. “We want to find out everything about Mom that will help us help her.”
To do this, caregivers collaborate with a new resident and their family to answer 116 specific questions, ranging from past occupations to favorite music genres to what calms and reassures them. Bowen refers to this as a resident’s life story.
“We take the answers to those questions and what they say about the resident, the things they like to do, and create a plan to keep them active and engaged.”
Most residents also receive a memory display to hang beside their apartment door. Families can choose to fill it with photos and meaningful mementos that illustrate their family member’s personality. The space also serves a practical purpose by helping the resident locate their apartment.
When staff members get to know a resident well, they can adjust the way they respond to certain behaviors. For some residents, music is a soothing antidote to aggressive behavior, which is a common symptom of dementia. Staff may help other residents focus on a simple task or project to redirect their attention in a positive way.
“What works for one person doesn’t always work for another,” Bowen said.
Developing emotional intelligence
A person with dementia can’t always control their emotions or communicate what they’re feeling. If they appear upset or confused, caregivers need to know the best way to respond.
Staff training at Atria includes universal dementia care methods such as redirecting or reducing distractions. Caregivers are also coached in more intuitive techniques such as “how to read a room,” as Bowen put it.
“We need to use our emotional intelligence when figuring out how to respond,” he said.
Emotional intelligence includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. The more in touch a staff member is with their own emotions, the better they can assess another’s and respond appropriately.
“We ask family members how they approach Mom, and what kinds of emotions she typically shows. How we respond from an emotional standpoint is what helps the resident feel at ease,” Bowen said.
Polk agreed, adding that a caregiver’s mood also can impact the way a resident behaves.
“People with dementia can sense your vibe and react to it,” she said. “I train staff members to put aside any personal issues as much as possible when they come to work. We want to create a peaceful, enjoyable environment.”
Building trust and communication
Forging a relationship with family is also key to Atria’s personalized approach. After a new resident moves in, a designated caregiver contacts the family with updates every day.
“It’s about connecting from the very beginning to make sure families are part of the process,” Bowen said. “Once they’re on board, it makes caring for the resident easier.”
Whether it’s making decisions together about medical treatment or discussing Dad’s need for a new pair of slippers, staff stay in regular contact with family. In her previous role as a Life Guidance Memory Care Director, Polk even sent photos to family members showing the resident active and engaged.
“We want them to know what their family member is doing,” she said. “That’s one way to gain a family’s trust.”
Bill says the staff members who care for his mother, Gloria, have “just the right touch” and update his family regularly.
“When they call, the first four words are always ‘Your mom is all right,’ and then they talk about what’s going on.
“From the beginning, I could see that these people truly care. I can’t imagine a better place for Mom,” Bill said.
If you or someone you know could benefit from Atria’s forward-thinking, highly personalized memory care, please reach out to the Atria community near you for more information.
Category: Active Aging, Community, COVID-19, Dementia & Memory Care, Wit & Wisdom
Posted on June 13, 2017 by Admin
This year, the summer solstice falls on June 21, which makes it the longest day of 2017. This also marks the date of the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual mid-year event – dubbed ‘The Longest Day’ – to raise awareness of the issue as well as funding to support research.
As a provider of care, services and living accommodations for seniors, our caregivers and staff members at Atria Senior Living communities across the U.S. are well aware of the challenges associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. We see the toll it takes on individuals and their families, on caregivers and society as a whole. And, we support research and fundraising efforts in hopes of finding a cure.
We also believe that we should consider what can be done now, today, to help individuals with dementia continue to live engaging, meaningful and joyful lives.
- Physical Activity – Decades of research point to the health benefits of social connection and regular exercise for seniors, including the potential to limit cognitive decline. A study published in 2016 in Neurology, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found that regular exercise may slow mental decline by a decade. At Atria, we encourage exercise twice a day including walks, stretching and chair yoga, dance, and working with weights; activity is good for the brain!
- Social Connection – A 2009 study funded by the National Institute on Aging and published in the journal Evidence-Based Mental Health found that having a larger social network and consistent contact with family and friends are associated with reduced dementia risk. These findings make a strong case for the value of communal and shared living space.
- Engaged Programming – What’s good for people living with dementia is what’s good for all older people: engagement. For example, music-based programs show increasing promise in keeping those with dementia engaged because musical appreciation is among the last abilities to be affected by memory impairment. Research shows that music can improve mood, reduce stress and agitation, and create focus and interest, among other benefits. Atria’s own music program, Legato®, is offered daily in our memory care environments and encourages physical activity and social interaction, all set to music.
- Thoughtfully Designed Spaces – Environmental factors can greatly influence quality of life and behavior among people with dementia by allowing them to maintain a sense of independence. Atria applies careful and deliberate thought to the design of its memory care environments, or Life Guidance® Neighborhoods, which are designed to maximize awareness and orientation. This extends to interior design, lighting, artwork, safety features and many other aspects.
There’s a growing recognition that dementia isn’t only the responsibility of those directly affected, but society as a whole. A great example is the global movement to make more cities and towns “dementia friendly” by educating citizens and working to improve the safety and quality of life for those with dementia. Let’s hope this attitude of compassion and accountability continues to grow in prevalence.
We believe life does not end when dementia begins. Ours should not be a language of despair, but instead, one of possibility and hope found in incremental progress, one life at a time.
Category: Dementia & Memory Care
Tags: Alzheimer's, Alzheimer’s Association, caregiver, dementia, exercise, memory care, Music
Posted on July 31, 2015 by Admin
Women are disproportionately affected by Alzheimer’s and the reasons remain unclear. According to the Alzheimer’s Association Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report:
- Women make up almost two-thirds of American seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Among those aged 71 and older, 16 percent of women have Alzheimer’s and other dementias, compared to 11 percent of men.
- At age 65, women without Alzheimer’s have more than a one-in-six chance of developing the disease during the remainder of their lives, compared with a one-in-11 chance for men.
- Women in their 60s are about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease over the rest of their lives as they are to develop breast cancer.
Category: Dementia & Memory Care, News In Aging
Tags: Alzheimer's, Assisted Living, dementia, memory care
Posted on December 23, 2014 by Admin
Part Two: Engaging Activities
If you’re considering care for a family member who is living with the challenges of Alzheimer’s or another form of memory impairment, the items at the top of your checklist are likely related to finding a safe and healthy living arrangement where your family member will not just live, but live well. When you visit a senior living community, take every opportunity to ask questions about their memory care program.
Category: Dementia & Memory Care
Tags: Alzheimer's, memory care
Posted on October 22, 2014 by Admin
Part 1: Living Environment | Alzheimer's and Memory Care
When you’re making a personal visit to an assisted living community, take every opportunity you have to ask questions about Alzheimer’s and memory care.
It may be helpful if you divide your questions between a few main topics: Living Environment, Engaging Activities, Staff Training and Education and Quality Assurance.
In this installment of a three-part series, we’ll help with things you should look for in a living environment that will help your family member live well.
Look at the Surroundings
First, take a look around the community and observe the residents. Are the residents engaged in elementary activities, or are they living full, enriched lives in an environment that encourages grown-up engagement? Are they well-groomed and dressed neatly? They should be.
Walk the Community
Take a moment to walk the community. Is the space welcoming, vibrant and purposefully designed to accommodate residents with memory impairments? Residents with memory impairments may wander to help relieve stress, boredom, relieve discomfort or pain. An ideal design of a memory care environment would include opportunities for residents to walk within the secured environment and access to outdoor space (during appropriate weather).
You want to feel confident that your loved one is safe, and also that they are free to move about with exposure to sunlight, plants, birds and other things that make them happy. You want to feel confident that your loved one is safe, and also that they are free to move about with exposure to sunlight, plants, birds and other things that make them happy. You should get the sense that your loved one will feel free and relaxed, rather than confined and anxious.
To this end, consider whether the staff greets and welcomes you with open smiles. That’s a pretty good indicator of a positive environment. If there is tension in the air, you can generally see it on staff members’ faces.
Safety, of course, is of utmost concern. It’s easy to see the signs of a safe neighborhood:
- Do the doors promptly re-secure when you enter or exit?
- Are all doors secured to prevent wandering in unsecured spaces?
- Are there handrails in the hallways to aid in balance?
- Is there enough space for the number of residents who live there to comfortably participate in activities and physical exercise?
- What about power outages or plant emergencies, such as a fire? Is there a defined evacuation plan? How are the residents protected during events such as these?
- Are windows secured – specifically, are the windows in each resident’s apartment secure?
Ask questions about the community’s call system and the staff’s ability to respond timely to your family member’s needs. Staff carry pagers and/or radios with them as means to communicate with each other. Pagers alert staff when something unusual happens (a door opens that generally shouldn't, a door leading out to the courtyard or an alert button/pendant).
Another safety feature is systematic and routine checks on residents to be sure they are okay. The need for status checks and their frequency are based on each resident’s service plan. Certainly, basic cleanliness is worth considering as well. Are all of the rooms and open areas clean? Are there any lingering odors? What about the dining room? Is it clean and comfortable?
A supportive community will always promote independence by offering their residents choices. Simple choices work best for those with memory impairments. For example, a choice between a blue shirt or a yellow shirt versus choosing any shirt from their closet. We pride ourselves on offering our Life Guidance residents the same dining experience as in Assisted Living. Pay particular attention to the dining experience, the quality of food the community offers and if they adjust their menu selections to accommodate the changing needs of the residents. Stay tuned for Part Two of the series, which will focus on Engaging Activities and their role in the lives of residents with memory impairments.
Category: Dementia & Memory Care
Tags: Assisted Living, dementia, Life Guidance, Living Environment, memory care, safety
Posted on August 1, 2014 by Admin
Culturally speaking, we place a great deal of emphasis on physical health and the actions we take to keep our bodies healthy. But what about our brains? As some of us age, we experience a decline in cognitive ability, memory loss and a general lag in mental processing. So, it is important to focus on not only how we keep our bodies healthy, but also our brains.
A simple place to start is with your diet. (more…)
Category: Dementia & Memory Care, News In Aging, The Atria Kitchen
Tags: Brain Foods
Posted on July 30, 2014 by Admin
When I was a child my mother would tuck me into bed every night. She always sprayed rose water on her face before bed and, to this day, whenever I smell roses, I remember my mother and how safe I felt. (more…)
Category: Dementia & Memory Care
Posted on July 24, 2014 by Admin
On Wednesday, the Denver Broncos released a statement indicating the owner of their franchise, Pat Bowlen, is stepping down as a result of his diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. Bowlen has been living with the disease for a few years, but chose to keep this private. (more…)
Category: Dementia & Memory Care, News In Aging
Tags: Alzheimers Disease, Denver Broncos, Pat Bowlen