Memory support for life
Editor’s note: This article, which describes Memory Care, is the last in a three-part series about components of Erickson Living’s comprehensive Memory Support program.
In December, we wrote about Memory Fitness, designed for people who want to keep their memory sharp. Last month, we described the Memory Health program, which is for people who have early to moderate dementia-related diseases. Memory Care, the subject of this article, is for people in the later stages of memory impairment who need the most support in an environment specifically dedicated to meet their needs.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Engagement in meaningful activities is one of the most critical elements of an exceptional memory care program. Activities help residents maintain their functional abilities and can enhance quality of life.” This is the philosophy of Erickson Living’s Memory Care program. All services are designed to keep people comfortable and able to experience life in a pleasant way for as long as possible.
The Erickson Living Memory Care program encompasses three levels of engagement, from the individual achievement-focused self-directed level, to the group involvement-focused structured level, and finally, the guided level program, which incorporates daily activities providing personal meaning, optimal independence, satisfaction, and overall enjoyment of life.
Different programs within Memory Care
All Memory Care residents can participate in any of the programs within the department, depending on their abilities, wants, and needs. The self-directed program allows residents to self-initiate activities and encourages independence through a supportive physical environment. Components of the self-directed program include neighborhood common areas that promote a resident’s comfort and social activities; individual rooms decorated with residents’ personal belongings that allow for private alone time; a physical environment designed with way-finding cues; interactive memory stations for resident self-discovery and exploration; and safe outdoor walking spaces.
The structured program in Memory Care employs trained and dedicated programming staff to design and lead structured activities seven days a week. They create an activity calendar that encompasses residents’ interests. Group activities promote a sense of community and connectedness, which are vital components of the overall Memory Care program.
Residents have opportunities to participate in projects or hobbies they may have enjoyed throughout their lifetime. Actively engaging residents can reduce feelings of helplessness and boredom, and also decrease agitation, aggression, and confusion.
The guided program in Memory Care supports a resident throughout his or her entire 24-hour day and operates concurrently with the self-directed and structured programs. This program is based on the premise that every resident’s action and expression is an attempt to communicate with another person and/or attempt to fulfill an unmet social, emotional, or physical need.
In the guided program, trained staff specialize in caring for residents with memory deficits. Staff members are taught how to understand the meaning of residents’ actions and expressions. They work with the resident to bring pleasure to daily life. Staff-to-resident ratios allow for individual interactions appropriate to the level of care needed.
Medical management, which is part of all Memory Support program components, continues to be a vital part of a resident’s care while in the Memory Care neighborhood. The goal of medical management in the later stages of dementia is to keep the resident as comfortable and physically healthy as possible. Dedicated teams work collaboratively with the resident and family to ensure all care and service needs are available and easily accessible.