(Olathe, Kansas) – Uncertainty, fear and anger often come with a dementia diagnosis.
For family members, the behaviors that arise from dementia are often the most challenging part of this spectrum of illnesses, says Tracey Torola, senior living manager at Cedar Lake Village in Olathe, Kansas.
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But Cedar Lake Village seeks to help dementia patients and their families in new ways.
The campus is developing a secure special care unit complete with a courtyard, access to the outdoors, shops and even a restored 1968 Ford F-250 pickup truck. The community lets tenants explore and interact with each other as they might have interacted with neighbors before moving to Cedar Lake Village.
Tracey explains that 24 residents will live in one of two units, called households. Activity stations within each household will contain items from a resident’s past — things like jewelry, photos or tools — that the resident can explore throughout the day.
“We’ll be able to change them out so that if we have a person that comes in that’s been a secretary, we could have a desk for them so they can do secretarial work — things they’ve done all their life,” says Tracey. “We’ll have a laundry room for those ladies that spent their life as mothers and wives and did laundry all the time, so they can still feel like they’re doing something important.”
People with dementia often wander or act out because they are looking for something or are feeling something they can’t explain. These stations will help residents stay involved with the world around them, and provide a way for staff members and visiting loved ones to relate to the residents.
“If we can do our part in creating environments where the families and friends still feel comfortable visiting loved ones in a special care unit, that’s critical,” says Joanna Randall, executive director for Good Samaritan Society – Communities of Olathe.
“When you don’t do those things, a family member might have a bad experience and they feel more uncomfortable to come visit. Those visits dwindle and drop, and so we want these households to be really welcoming for everyone to be involved.”
Looking for ways to connect?
Symptoms of dementia such as biting, yelling or sobbing are often signals that your loved one is trying to communicate with you — but can’t.
Instead of becoming frustrated or turning to antipsychotics, try to find out what your loved one needs or wants.
Click here for some tips on communicating with a loved one who has dementia.
The memory care unit hasn’t been designed just for residents and families, though. The staff and volunteers who will spend time with residents have been kept in mind as well.
“It’s really important that we know our residents well, and that we’re set up to enable them to still participate in life,” Tracey says. “The staff will be very involved, spending quality time with them, getting them the things they need to be engaged.”
Staff members are encouraged to chat with residents or go to activities with them, and the various activity stations in the households and in the courtyard will give them ample opportunity to connect with residents.
“With any resident, but especially with someone with dementia, they have to know they can trust you,” Tracey says. “We encourage our staff to stop and visit with residents whenever they can. And if someone’s having a difficult time, we pray with them. So it’s all about interaction. You have to know your residents because they can’t tell you.”
Click here to learn more about services at Cedar Lake Village.
Story by Marcella Prokop
Video by Lonnie Nichols
Good Samaritan Society staff members