Advances in Memory Care for Seniors

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Lori AlfordBy Lori Alford, COO for Avanti Senior Living

The Transition of Senior Housing – A Growing Need for Specialized Care

We have the ability, as senior living developers, to change stereotypes, alter perceptions and remove limitations placed on seniors. This can be done by designing communities that celebrate the residents’ capabilities, individuality and desire to choose. This is especially important when designing communities with high-quality memory care. There are countless new advanced ways to meet the residents’ needs that help reduce anxiety and provide a holistic way of living while providing the best quality of life possible. Instead of a one-size-fits-all routine and schedule, my partner Tim Hekker and I have developed a concept that will have a resident-focused structure, catering to the way residents like to live their lives, while providing the expert care they need. In response to the growing number of seniors who are living with Alzheimer’s disease, we developed Salize, which is an extension of our senior living communities that serves residents in need of memory care.

A New Memory Care Concept – Bending and Flourishing Through Challenges

The name Salize is derived from the word salice, meaning “willow” in Italian. Willow trees, much like memory care residents, adapt and even thrive in the face of difficult life stresses. Just like the way the willow tree bends under strong winds but bounces back and continues to flourish, residents living with dementia will prosper, despite the challenges created by memory loss. Using both a research-based and an experience-based approach to create the ingenious design, savvy programming and exemplary care that will be offered in Salize, we are planning to bring radical changes to the memory care industry.  We are offering a refreshing concept that focuses on the continuation of each individual’s lifestyle, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all schedule all residents must follow. Residents will maintain their dignity, have the power to make their own decisions and preserve the lifestyle they are accustomed to.

Advances in Technology and Design

It is important to engage residents’ senses, create a calming environment and assist them with daily living tasks. Sensory technology should be a considerable component in memory care design. Research has shown that playing sounds associated with morning, day and night throughout the community will help residents adjust to the time of day. Sensory lighting in their suites and throughout the community will help reduce resident anxiety by cueing them through the phases of the day and allowing them to sleep better at night by mimicking the natural lighting outside. Sensory boards built into handrails in the hallways will help residents navigate throughout the community and provide sensory stimulation. Communities designed for memory care should be built with open spaces, short hallways, no blind corners and special lighting to reduce apprehension, confusion and the feeling of being overwhelmed. A large, private, enclosed courtyard with walking paths and benches is recommended for socialization or moments of quiet as well. Additionally, memory care residents will benefit from having access to a tranquility room designed to have a calming effect on those feeling anxious.

Resident-Focused Care

Our team members are open-minded, compassionate and innovative, so they can meet the needs of residents in creative ways. We do not expect residents to follow a master schedule. We will make a point to know their schedules, their preferences and their lifestyles, and then we will cater to them. For example, some residents like to sleep in and others like to get up at dawn. We let them do things at their leisure. If a resident likes a small breakfast of toast and coffee in the comfort of her suite, we do not want to make her come to the dining room and be served a huge breakfast. Likewise, residents will have the option to participate in activities or special events if they want to but won’t be forced to do things they do not want to do. Residents in memory care require a different level of care and services that truly have a special touch.

Research

It is imperative to use a research-based approach, as well as an experience-based approach, when developing housing, programs and amenities for those with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. We stay tuned to trends, technology, science and our own experiences to help us consistently develop new, better ways of revolutionizing memory care. 

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