New Approach to Caring for Memory-Impaired Aging Parents

by Dale on December 1, 2010

Does this sound familiar?

  • You are struggling to provide in-home care for your parent as their dementia worsens.  The physical demands of caregiving are beyond your capacity.
  • You start to visit memory care facilities.  At the first center, you see “patients” lined up in wheelchairs around the nurses’ station.
  • At the second center you visit, you see “residents” in a homelike setting, with their wheelchairs positioned in a circle.  The residents are holding baby dolls and gently rocking/stroking them.
  • At the third center, you see a few staff (too few) interacting with the residents.  These staff members make eye level contact, call each person by name, and meet the residents in their reality.

After your 3 visits, you reflect on which type of place would be the best for your aging parent.  Which would you choose?  You wonder, are these the only type of skilled nursing facilities out there?

The answer is no.  There is something much better!  I recently interviewed co-founders of The Silverado Senior Community, Loren Shook and Stephen Winner.  If you have time, I suggest you listen to our entire 30 minute interview (click here.)

Loren and Stephen founded The Silverado on a special philosophy and set of principles.  Amazingly, their concept transforms not only the lives of their residents, but the lives of the residents’ families, Silverado staff and their families.

So what makes Silverado unique and special?  (Keep in mind they are dedicated to serving just the memory-impaired)

  • Their focus goes beyond ‘quality of care’ to ‘quality of life‘.
  • They follow the Assisted Living social model while still providing the needed medical support services.
  • When you enter their building, you will enter what looks like a living room, not a lobby.  It will be an active, noisy place with pets and employee children interacting with the residents.  The power of inter-generational connection is valued, both for the sake of the residents and the children.
  • Emphasis is placed on staff training so staff engage with each resident in a positive and loving manner, and intervene as early as possible with behavioral challenges, reducing resident frustration and maximizing abilities.
  • Each resident is treated as an individual.  Each new resident undergoes a thorough assessment that includes everything from review of all medications to recognizing the person’s interests, strengths, abilities.
  • Instead of group activities such as Bingo, there is a wonderful Club Concept.  If a resident loves art, they can become a “member” of the Art Club.   These club activities are offered at different functional levels.  There are no constant memory testing “games.”  There is no right/wrong answer at Silverado.
  • Residents are allowed choice, in every way,  and are encouraged self-expression.  I love the idea of memory boxes outside each room.

Even if you are not near a Silverado community, we can learn from their positive, affirming manner of interacting with their residents.  As Loren and Steve write in their new book, ” memory impairment doesn’t mean end of life…but a new stage of life.”  As I ended my interview, I felt a sense of enormous possibility and hope for those with dementia and their families.  I hope this post has given you one or two new ideas of interacting with your aging parent or loved one.

To reach Silverado’s website and learn more, click here.

To read about and purchase their new book, “The Silverado Story: A Memory-Care Culture Where Love is Greater Than Fear”, click here.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

kersti bellardi January 9, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Hi, this is a great resource, but i am wondering if there are some other resources relating to particular problems that I am dealing with. My father who is taking care of my mother (who has had MS for many years) has found ways to successfully deal with the day to day trials of the memory impairments as well as the physical ones. One of the problems that we are still having is controlling the fact that when he is out doing the laundry etc., she is able to access her credit cards and order useless and expensive amounts of infomercial products that they dont need and/or cannot use. returning these multiple packages a day is proving to be trying or near impossible seeing as how no one needs to sign for them. Taking away her cards is just another way of showing her that she is losing her independence, so is there someone out there that can give me some advice? Or someone that can direct me to some network of people that I can ask for advice? Thanks

Dale January 9, 2011 at 3:08 pm

You mention memory impairment. When this is a factor, I direct people to the Alzheimer’s Association. They have a hotline and answer questions related to any type of dementia or memory impairment. You are so perceptive to realize that just taking away the cards is showing her that she is losing her independence. So, please consider contacting Alz. Assoc. hotline with your challenge. The number is 24/7 Helpline: 800.272.3900

The other thing I encourage you to do is to check out all the resources offered by the Alzheimer’s Assoc. You can plug in your parents’ zip code and find the local chapter. Most offer support groups for caregivers. That could provide your father with a place for sharing and learning from other caregivers and skilled facilitators.

Hope this helps. Dale…

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