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A Creative, Holistic Approach to Memory Care

When memory becomes a challenge, the five senses can open doors to mental and emotional wellness. Music, art, movement, and other creative activities are known to stimulate the part of the brain that controls emotion and may even spark some cognitive function. At the Memory Care Suite at Lester, residents enjoy a variety of holistic therapies that harness the power of the senses to improve their physical and emotional well-being.

“Our residents are enjoying these therapeutic and creative activities,” says Keisha McDonald, Lester Senior Housing community life coordinator. “Moreover, they perfectly complement our integrated ‘person-centered care’ approach, where the focus is on the individual’s quality of life.”

The Memory Care Suite’s monthly calendar is packed with multisensory programs that provide holistic support for residents. Led by certified professionals, these activities offer a positive, soothing experience while promoting social connections and self-expression.

Music therapy
Music evokes a visceral response in nearly everyone, and people with dementia are no exception—even those with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Clinical research shows that music therapy is an ideal intervention for people with memory loss. Singing, playing, creating, listening to, and moving to music can enhance memory, improve physical rehabilitation, and alleviate pain, all while fostering a sense of comfort and security. It is an especially powerful outlet of expression for nonverbal individuals.

Plus, it’s fun. Certified music therapist Coleen Shanagher holds sessions at the Lester Senior Housing Community that are enjoyed by assisted living and independent living residents as well. There’s also a monthly drum circle program called “Rhythm and You” with David Azarch, a therapeutic drumming facilitator and AFA-qualified dementia care professional. Therapeutic drumming is based on the idea that rhythmic energy generates connections in the neurons to synchronize different areas of the brain, promoting calm and focus. Playing rhythms can help people open up to share their feelings and is said to control chronic pain and lower blood pressure.

Pet therapy
Therapy dogs provide psychological and physiological benefits; medical science shows that interaction with a therapy dog can reduce blood pressure, anxiety, fatigue and depression; promote physical healing; and provide emotional support. The dogs allow residents to pet or groom them, they play ball, or they listen quietly (in any language) and provide loving eye contact.

There’s always excitement when Anyka, comes to visit. The golden retriever sits calmly while residents stroke her fur and share stories about their family pets. Anyka performs tricks for the residents who reward her with treats provided by her owner, certified pet therapist, Shari Stack.

Aromatherapy
Botanical oils have been used for more than 6,000 years to treat a host of maladies. Their chemical properties are thought to reduce anxiety and depression, and they can help heal wounds and fight certain infections. Aromatherapy, which combines olfactory and tactile stimulation, is not only a pleasurable therapeutic technique, but a promising treatment in memory care.

Residents enjoy a daily aromatherapy sessions with certified practitioner, Barbara Rimorin. Peppermint is used in the morning to stimulate mental alertness and boost energy; in the afternoon, lavender is used for its calming effect and to promote balanced emotions.

Staying creative, active, and mindful
Thanks to Arts By the People, an Essex County nonprofit that brings creative programs to senior communities, all residents at the Lester Senior Housing Community can immerse themselves in artistic endeavors like jewelry design, fine arts projects, floral arts, and memoir and poetry writing, which are all very popular. In addition, there’s a full lineup of “brain game” events like bingo, word games, crosswords, and Trivial Quest. Even passive activities like movie screenings and concerts by visiting artists keep the brain engaged and encourage socialization.

Physical activity is also important in caring for mind, body, and spirit. Residents are encouraged to get up and go every day with programs like Armchair Fitness, Yoga, Balance and Mindfulness, and the Walking Club, to name a few.

“Every activity and offering is therapeutic because they all promote wellness,” says Keisha. “Whether you are an independent, active senior or someone who benefits from the support of assisted living or memory care, waking up the senses and moving one’s body is good for the mind, body and soul.”
Monthly calendars of events and activities for all residents are at http://jchcorp.org/the-lester-senior-housing-community-calendar/. To learn how your loved one can benefit from the Memory Care Suite’s holistic therapies, contact David Rozen at (973) 929-2725 or davidr@jchcorp.org.