An estimated 5.7 million Americans have Alzheimer’s or other dementias. At home or in senior housing communities, creating beautiful, vibrant, and active cultures where those who have cognitive loss can live with joy and purpose is important.
We believe that those who have memory loss can participate as fully capable people in an environment where the mind, body, spirit, and soul is stimulated – promoting physical and mental wellness.
In our senior housing communities, we are creating LivingMemories™ nooks in our Memory Support Neighborhoods. We recognize that elders do not live in our work-space. We work in their living space.
We decided to design living spaces to evoke memories of home life, work life, and creative endeavors. These spaces encourage the elders to self-direct their own lives as they remember and practice routines or life skills that were previously part of their daily lives. The team member role is a trusted friend and family support when needed.
We have seen first-hand men and women in the nursery nurturing dolls as their remembered babies. It is heart-warming as they dress them, feed them, change their diapers, and even sleep with them at night. The parent and/or grandparent role is validated, inspiring a sense of purpose, love, and belonging.
What we’ve noticed with the nursery nook is that those who haven’t talked in a while are now talking; and in one instance, a person who was anxious, agitated, and refusing food is now eating. Dorothy has been known to wander and exit seek. She has now found purpose and love by taking care of her “baby” in the nursery – often sitting for hours rocking the baby.
Dottie, who loves all things that sparkle, is often found smiling while at the beauty nook trying on items from the collection and showing them off to other elders, families, and care teams.
When I visit our Memory Support Neighborhoods, my heart sings as I watch the care teams entering the home of these elders and begin delivering happiness.
I see a young care team member learning alongside an elder craftsman Ruben, at a workbench. Another care team member is offering to babysit for the mothers and the grandmothers so they could tidy up the nursery. A caring Administrator purchases flowers for Don, an avid gardener, and listens to him explain to her the proper way to plant and grow beautiful flowers. Geraldine, once an FBI agent sits at her desk to review the daily schedule, telling me that she is in charge of making sure the employees wear their name tags. Francesca, a pianist is playing piano at the music station as Adele dances. We are unique. Our team members truly work as a family unit to create and support a sense of purpose, love and belonging, self-esteem, safety, and home.
Our care teams are delivering happiness – and receiving it too!
About the author: Candis Willis is the Director of Operations for the Southwest Region for Compass Senior Living. Candis lives in Redding, California. She started working with seniors in 1995 as a floor nurse and has spent her career working with elders in many different capacities, from admission coordinator to administrator. The best part of this work for her is connecting with residents and seeing them flourish in life when they thought life would be over because of leaving their homes. She loves having the opportunity each day to give back to them what they have given to so many others. In addition to being a nurse, Candis also holds a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and is a licensed administrator in California, Idaho, and New Mexico.