The following post is sponsored by Waterford Place Memory Care
When Cynthia’s mother Irene was diagnosed with dementia it was a devastating blow to the whole family. Imagining a future where Irene might no longer remember cherished memories or even her family members was heartbreaking.
But what Cynthia realized very quickly, was even the day-to-day small lapses in memory – her mother forgetting to take her morning pills, skipping dinner because she forgot what time it was, and the misplacing of any number of items followed by extreme frustration and tears – was taking a toll not only on her mother but on the whole family.
Dementia is an umbrella term applied to a group of symptoms. Its predominant form, Alzheimer’s, affects 5.7 million people currently and is projected to impact 14 million people by 2050.
Currently, 16.1 million Americans — mostly women — provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, and these caregivers provide 18.4 billion hours of care valued at $232 billion. *
While the diagnosis is still daunting, Sunset Retirement Communities and Services is offering a message of hope. The Christian retirement community is opening Waterford Place Memory Care on June 20, after years of research into how to improve the quality of life for dementia patients as well as their families. The individual residential units and the communal areas have all been designed to accommodate the needs of residents with dementia, as have the activity and therapy programs.
“Care for people living with dementia has traditionally been limited to providing safe care focused on maximizing comfort,” said Chris Matzke, COO at Sunset Retirement Communities. “Waterford Place Memory Care provides specialized cognitive therapy and the highest degree of care, giving those loved ones living with dementia the opportunity for improvement.”
Waterford Place Memory Care, at 1725 Port Sheldon St. in Jenison, will offer dementia care trained staff, a Virtual Dementia Room to help staff and family members better understand the experience of someone with dementia, and nutritional meals and recreational therapy activities designed to improve health and memory.
Let’s talk about the food, because anyone with a family member in an assisted living facility knows that is of the utmost importance. Residents can choose from carefully prepared and tasty menu options created by in-house chef Justin Ely, a trained brain diet expert.
A brain diet simply means foods known to improve brain health, such as those rich in vitamin E, protein and omega-3 fatty acid. These include items like salmon, nutritional smoothies, foods high in nuts, and other protein rich foods.
Residents will also take part in a therapy program called SAIDO Learning. Developed in Japan, SAIDO has been shown to improve symptoms of dementia. It is based on the practice of engaging in simple yet specific cognitive exercises that stimulate the prefrontal cortex of the brain.
The facility will also offer personalized assessments of patients to create individual care and activity plans. That means rather than providing a list of predetermined activities, Waterford Place will create activities based on its residents’ hobbies and previous life experiences. These activities also include purpose-driven opportunities.
“Waterford Place provides opportunities for people living with dementia to use and share their God-given gifts,” Matzke said. “If a person living with dementia enjoys hospitality and cooking, our chef will work with them to make and prepare their favorite dish for family and friends.
“If a resident loves music, our certified recreational therapists will find creative ways to connect the resident with the music that once inspired them with the potential that they in-turn inspire others by sharing their musical gifts with others.”
Waterford Place is also offering programming for its residents’ families and extended caregivers – like Cynthia – to help give them the support they need to help their loved one, without jeopardizing their own health and well-being in the process.
“Family members face many difficulties caring for a loved one living with dementia, including physical and emotional difficulties, guilt, isolation, depression, and financial ruin,” Matzke said, adding, “Compared with caregivers of people without dementia, twice as many caregivers of those with dementia indicate substantial emotional, financial, and physical difficulties.”
Through its Savvy Caregiver series, family members are learning how to cope with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, how to manage the demands of caregiving, tips for improving caregiving skills, and how to create everyday activities to better fit the abilities of their loved one.
The classes started in April and have already garnered a substantial wait list, which is strong evidence as to just how many caregivers out there need somewhere to turn for their own hope.
“Waterford Place comes alongside the family to provide loved ones with a level of specialized care that they cannot receive at home or at a typical assisted living community,” Matzke said. “We are flipping the script on what it means to live with dementia. We are passionate about life, and we want our residents to feel the same way.”
*Statistics provided by the Alzheimer’s Association.
**The names used in this story represent a composite of real-life families providing dementia care to loved ones.
***Photos courtesy of Sunset Retirement Communities & Services