Few things can be more confusing, frightening and frustrating than diseases that affect the mind. Thankfully, there are memory care communities, like the Sweet Memories program at Commonwealth Assisted Living at Radford, that exist solely to ease those feelings and provide a sense of comfort to those affected by memory loss.
“Memory Care is a place where individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia can thrive,” says Sharon Miller, sales and marketing director for Commonwealth Assisted Living at Radford. “We try to meet them where they are, in their minds, and what they feel their reality is. We try to help them live happily. It’s a place where we encourage creativity, and allow them to be as happy as they possibly can.”
Miller says that a large part of that process is just to help them settle in and relax. “You know, they don’t realize they have dementia; the family does, and that’s what’s difficult,” she says.
The Sweet Memories program features healthy, family-style dining options, open and secure outdoor spaces such as courtyards and gardens, monthly support group meetings for families and loved ones, private or companion suites with private baths, personal care services, medication management, weekly housekeeping, 24-hour staffing, an open-door policy that encourages 24-hour visitation, monthly family night dinners, activity schedules that stimulate the mind and body and customized socialization programs designed to fit the cognitive, social and mental needs of the resident.
“At Commonwealth Assisted Living, we are excited to develop Resident Programs that allow for individualized resident engagement, enhanced family and community involvement, and a program of group activities that bring real-life living into the assisted care environment.” Says Paula Harder, Regional Director of Resident Programs.
Those activities can be very rewarding for everyone involved. “One of the programs we offer is a group that allows for reminiscence through art called “Expressions.” Miller says. “We do that with every resident that lives here, but it’s especially nice and touching to hear from an individual who is no longer is able to speak. We will gather the group; sometimes it’s a big group, and sometimes it’s small and intimate, and we just talk. We show pictures, or have a specific item on the table that we’re talking about. Simple things: leaves, or pictures of people, or a landscape. We just talk about how it makes us feel. Those that can still speak will talk about those things. For those who can’t speak, we say, ‘Let’s put this down on paper,” and we’ll paint, color, use pen and ink, or whatever we’re using that day. Then, we get to see what they see, even when they can’t tell us.”
In addition to the new relationships that residents form, there are also friendly reminders of life before they came to Commonwealth Assisted Living at Radford. Miller says. “We get to know the person before they move here through their family, with a simple interview process. We find out about important events in Mom’s life; what she did for a living, wonderful vacations, and anything else the family wants to tell us about their loved one. Then, when they come to the community, there will be a space that reflects their life. If they were a housewife, we might have an ironing board with some laundry that’s been folded and a little clothesline for them to continue to “keep house.”
The Sweet Memories Program is more than just keeping busy. Miller says that these tasks can work wonders for a resident’s comfort and well-being. She says. “I think some of the frustration that comes from the disease process is when individuals feel like they don’t have self-worth anymore, like they don’t have a purpose. So, if we reintroduce those things to them, they may find fulfillment.”
Perhaps the best possible reminder, though, are the faces and voices of loved ones. “We don’t have visiting hours here; families can come and go as they please,” Miller says. “Some of them even spend the night with their loved one here. We want them to know that this is their loved one’s home, and they’re always welcome here.”
And that’s really the heart of what makes Commonwealth Assisted Living special. “Our tagline is ‘Welcome Home,’ and we truly live by that,” Miller says. “We want people to feel welcome, and we want them to know that this is home.”