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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.

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 https://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@richardc95.sg-host.com.

The Importance of Good Nutrition for Dementia Sufferers

So many of the things we take for granted in life become difficult for those with dementia, not the least of which is eating healthy and nutritious meals. Poor nutrition can increase a dementia patient’s behavioral symptoms. It can also cause weight loss that could make a person’s condition deteriorate more rapidly. To prevent these issues for seniors with memory disorders, caregivers need to make sure that those in their care are getting nutritious meals that help them maintain their physical and cognitive health.

It sounds simple, right? However, for a variety of reasons, people with dementia, especially older adults, don’t always want to eat. Some reasons for this include:

  • Not recognizing food. The person may no longer be familiar with the foods that they may have eaten in the past.
  • Ill-fitting dentures. Eating may hurt because of dentures that don’t fit correctly.
  • Medications. Any additions to or changes in medications may change the patient’s appetite.
  • Not enough exercise. Not exercising will decrease a person’s appetite.
  • Decreased sense of smell and taste. This may cause the food to be less appetizing as it once was.

Despite all of these issues, a healthy eating plan is important for seniors with dementia. They don’t need to have any special diet, unless they have other issues that call for certain food restrictions. If not, they should eat a well-balanced, varied and nutritious diet which will help them maintain optimal health.

Here are some ways you can help someone with dementia to keep up good eating habits for as long as possible:

  • Limit distractions. Serve meals in a quiet place. Avoid television or other distractions so the person can concentrate on eating.
  • Keep the table setting simple. Don’t put items on the table such as centerpieces or plastic fruit that might distract or confuse the person. That goes for extra utensils as well; only put utensils on the table that the person needs.
  • Distinguish food from the plate. Someone with dementia may have a hard time distinguishing food from the plate or the plate from the table because of impaired visual abilities. Try to use white plates or bowls with a contrasting color placemat. Avoid anything with patterns.
  • Check the food temperature. A person with dementia might not be able to tell if something is too hot to eat or drink and may burn themselves. Test food and drink temperature before serving.
  • Serve only one or two foods at a time. Too many foods at once may be confusing to the patient. Try serving one food at a time, for example, mashed potatoes followed by meat.
  • Be flexible to food preferences. Dementia patients may not remember liking certain foods, or may suddenly like something that they didn’t care for previously. Keep that in mind when preparing food. This is one of the ways our individualized comfort care comes into play in our Memory Care Suite; it’s about providing what the individual prefers.
  • Give the person plenty of time to eat. This helps avoid the risk of choking and creates a calm atmosphere, so important for emotional well-being.
  • Eat together. Make meals a social event so residents look forward to the mealtime. Research suggests that people eat better when they are in the company of others.
  • Keep in mind that people with dementia may not remember when or if they ate. If the person asks over and over about eating breakfast, consider serving several breakfasts—maybe eggs, then toast, then a pancake, then juice.

At the Lester Senior Housing Community’s Memory Care Suite, we understand the importance of good nutrition and caring for healthy bodies as well as minds and spirits. Healthful and enjoyable meal experiences for our residents are just one component of the holistic, person-centered care our caregivers provide. If you have a loved one with a memory disorder who would benefit from Memory Care at Lester, contact David Rozen at (973) 929-2725 or davidr@richardc95.sg-host.com.

Going Away for the Holidays? Respite Stays for Seniors with Memory Disorders Keep Loved Ones Safe and Cared For While You’re Gone

With the winter holidays (and vacations) coming, and families and caregivers planning some time off, concern for loved ones with cognitive disorders is also on the horizon for many people. Who will watch out for their loved one’s daily needs? And, will that person’s interests and comfort be attended in ways that will keep them happy and secure?

For older adults with dementia-related diagnoses, the Lester Senior Housing Community now provides short-term respite stays in our Memory Care Suite, located in the Judy & Josh Weston Assisted Living Residence (which also offers a respite stay program). These stays allow seniors with memory disorders to enjoy the safety, security and warmth of a true home-away-from-home, with personalized attention from specially trained caregivers who support each resident’s needs for comfort (and gives relatives peace of mind). This is an extension of our assisted living respite program.

All respite stays are available for anywhere from ten days to two months, ideal for when family members or regular caregivers are away for short periods of time or need a break.

Respite stays for those with memory loss
Respite stays in our intimate Memory Care Suite enable older adults with memory issues to sample what’s available to our full-time residents. First and foremost is the compassionate care that puts each resident’s well-being first, with emphasis on wellness of body, mind and soul. Our holistic approach includes many different ways to stimulate or soothe, to encourage socialization while also respecting a person’s need for quiet time. Whatever each resident needs is what our caregivers provide.

Short-term respite stays in the Memory Care Suite include:

  • A fully decorated apartment.
  • Meals in the dining room at each person’s leisure.
  • Time for socializing or relaxing in comfortable lounges or our quiet room.
  • MUSIC & MEMORY? – Listening to musical favorites helps keep minds active and encourages meaningful social interactions, so important for older adults who have memory issues. Our team will set up personalized playlists on portable digital devices.
  • Craft, games and other therapeutic activities.
  • Central care manager station and elopement prevention system for resident safety and security.
  • Planning a trip in the spring or summer? Your loved one may enjoy sitting outside on our private deck, with plantings, seating and beautiful views of nature.

For more information about short-term respite stays in the Memory Care Suite or the community’s independent and assisted living options, or to arrange a tour of the Lester Senior Housing Community, contact David Rozen at (973) 929-2725 or davidr@richardc95.sg-host.com.

What is Person-Centered Memory Care?

Your loved one may have memory loss, but she still has a desire to have a say in her own life. She wants to participate in activities she enjoys, socialize, pursue her interests, and experience new things. And health permitting, she wants to be involved in her own care.

You have undoubtedly come across the term “person-centered care” while researching treatment options for memory loss. But what is person-centered care, exactly?
Simply put, it means putting an individual’s comfort, dignity, and safety first. The focus is on not just the patient’s physical condition, but his or her psychological and spiritual well-being as well.

This holistic, humanistic approach is a steep departure from the traditional institutional model for treating people with dementia, and an effective one. In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association’s guidelines for dementia care practices, supported by more than 30 major health and senior care organizations, are founded on the principles of person-centered care. It’s also the kind of care we provide at the Memory Care Suite at the Lester Senior Housing Community.

Person-Centered Care at the Memory Care Center

The caregivers at Lester Senior Housing Community embrace this integrated style of care and are fully committed to the philosophy that each patient has his or her own unique needs, interests, history, lifestyle, personality, and abilities. Instead of concentrating only on a resident’s limitations, caregivers take their cues from the things that the person can do and wants to do. Quality of life and respect are paramount as activities and daily interactions center around enhancing the resident’s life as a creative and intellectual being, and providing for the individual’s social, spiritual and physical wellness.

Nursing professionals and caregivers at our Memory Care Suite undergo extensive training in best practices for person-centered care through Comfort Matters®, an accredited education and research program dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of people with dementia. The Comfort Matters® philosophy highlights compassionate care and enriching experiences that enhance the individual’s dignity, happiness, security, and comfort at all times. It also fosters family and social connections, further bolstering the overall health and well-being of our residents.

How You Can Participate in Person-Centered Care for a Loved One

Developing a personalized treatment plan takes teamwork. Your loved one’s doctors, nurses, and staff will partner with the people who who know and understand her best, usually her family members. Above all, the patient herself should be involved in the process to the extent that it’s possible.

Our team recommends you keep these key concepts in mind when caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s or other another form of dementia:

  • Pursue comfort at all times. Make the person comfortable and teach other caregivers how to do this as well.
  • Know the person’s physical, psychological, social, and spiritual history. Incorporate this information into his or her care.
  • Anticipate the person’s needs.
  • Let the person make decisions and be in control whenever possible. Be an advocate; be his or her voice. Resolve distress quickly and ensure that comfort needs are met.

The Memory Care Suite at the Lester Senior Housing Community is a calm, comforting, supportive place where your loved one can find peace of mind, body, and soul. It’s a place where, through a person-centered, person-first approach, the goal of every day is to make it a good day. To learn more about memory care at Lester, contact David Rozen at (973) 929-2725 or davidr@richardc95.sg-host.com.

Navigating Alzheimer’s Disease as a Caregiver and Patient

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia caused by a tangling of the brain’s nerve cells and a buildup of certain proteins. The brain damage is irreversible and the patient’s mental and physical functions gradually deteriorate. Eventually, they lose their ability to live independently and will need round-the-clock care, often in specialized memory care environments in assisted living residences.

In most cases, Alzheimer’s symptoms manifest slowly through three stages (mild, moderate, and severe) as the disease progresses through the brain, but everyone experiences Alzheimer’s differently.

Mild Alzheimer’s disease

People with early-stage Alzheimer’s often live independent lives, caring for themselves, driving, paying bills, socializing, and working. But, they may experience memory lapses, lose things, forget what they just read or heard, or be unable to recall the right word for a common object. They may have trouble performing tasks or find it increasingly difficult to plan or organize. You may begin to notice these changes as well.

A person diagnosed with mild Alzheimer’s is often likely to understand what that means and may react with fear, denial, anxiety, depression, and anger. The people close to them often experience these emotions, too.

Caring for someone with mild Alzheimer’s disease

Your loved one’s condition will worsen over time, and your role as caregiver will deepen. This is a good time to discuss future options for legal, financial, and long-term care arrangements. It’s also smart for you both to take advantage of the many support services and resources that are available to you. Learn as much as you can about Alzheimer’s together. One of the best resources out there for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers is the comprehensive Alzheimer’s Association website. Encourage exercise and brain teasers to keep body and mind in shape. See to a balanced diet and create daily routines.

Determining whether or not your loved one needs help, and how much to give, is a big challenge during early-stage Alzheimer’s. Try to find a balance between dependency and independence. Don’t assume but ask if they need a hand. Enable activities they can safely enjoy with some supervision if necessary. Discuss a plan for avoiding potentially stressful or frustrating situations. Talk about ways they can comfortably ask for help.

Be mindful of your own stress level throughout the journey. Be sure to keep yourself healthy and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your support network.

Moderate Alzheimer’s disease

In middle-stage Alzheimer’s, there will be good days and bad days, but caregiver responsibilities will increase. The individual may find it more and more difficult to perform routine tasks like dressing, expressing themselves verbally, or following a conversation. Structure becomes more important at this stage, and daily routines will have to be adapted according to how the dementia advances. Flexibility and patience are key.

People with moderate Alzheimer’s may exhibit changes in behavior or personality. Angry outbursts, confusion, irritability, sleep disturbance, or wandering are all distressing signs of a declining brain. The person may not always recognize you, and you, too, may wonder who this stranger is. Remember that the disease, not the individual, is causing these changes.

Caring for someone with moderate Alzheimer’s disease

Personal care becomes more and more difficult now, so your assistance may be needed in eating, dressing, and toileting. Try to remember that loss of independence and privacy is one of the most devastating experiences anyone can have. Another particularly distressing milestone is giving up driving.

Communication in moderate Alzheimer’s disease becomes increasingly challenging as the individual starts to lose the ability to find or understand words. In order to help them retain the dignity they deserve, it’s important to handle all these transitions with sensitivity.

Most important, people with moderate Alzheimer’s should not live alone. There are too many safety risks, such as wandering, misusing appliances, and falling, to name just a few. Whether they move in with relatives, go into assisted living, or settle into a long-term care facility like the Memory Care Suite at the Lester Senior Housing Community, it’s imperative to ensure that someone is always watching out for your friend or loved one.

Severe Alzheimer’s disease

People in the final stages of Alzheimer’s need round-the-clock personal care. They usually have trouble eating and eventually become bedridden or chair-bound. They may experience incontinence and be prone to infection. Your focus is now on preserving their dignity and quality of life. You may also have to make difficult decisions on their behalf. Never be afraid to tap into your network for emotional and professional support.

Caring for someone with severe Alzheimer’s disease

Even if your loved one can’t communicate, you can still let them know you care. Read to them, play their favorite music, look through old photos, hold their hand, or just sit outside together. Help them stay nourished and hydrated. If communication is impaired, be aware of any physical signs of pain, distress, or illness.

Immobility can cause issues like rashes, frozen joints, and circulation problems, so keep an eye on his or her fragile skin and body. Clean and moisturize the skin gently. To relieve pressure, you can prop their arms and legs up with pillows (be mindful of bony areas) and change their position at least every two hours to avoid sores or discomfort. Help them do range-of-motion exercises (with the doctor’s approval). Since they’re vulnerable to infection, make sure their teeth, gums, and tongue are clean and tend to cuts or scrapes immediately.

When memory loss starts affecting daily life, it may be time to consider the intimate, resident-focused approach to memory care at the Memory Care Suite at the Lester Senior Housing Facility. For more information about the person-centered care provided by Lester’s specially trained caregivers, contact David Rozen at (973) 929-2725 or davidr@richardc95.sg-host.com.