Setting the Bar on Innovative Memory Care

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By Brice Smith

Before last August, Mary spent much of her days sleeping. A lack of personalized attention and care left her with little desire to be active.

That changed when she moved last summer into The Grove at The Terraces of Los Gatos, a newly opened memory support community in Los Gatos, Calif.

“Now we can’t get her to go to bed,” says Steve Cheregosha, director of The Grove.

Mary’s daughter Geraldine says the move has been transformational. “We really have seen her blossom,” she says.

Cheregosha agrees. “Before, Mary wouldn’t say a word, and now she sings,” he says. “She does crafts, she loves music and she loves to dance.” He knows this first-hand, dancing with her in the living room at least once a day.

The living room is a popular gathering place for all residents at The Grove. The open space has room for eating and watching TV together or enjoying the fireplace. Outside, there is even a garden for residents to tend to.

“It’s a home atmosphere,” Cheregosha says. “That’s what The Grove is designed to be. It’s different than other memory care programs that are institutionalized and look like facilities.”

The new addition of The Grove at The Terraces of Los Gatos is one of eight Grove programs across ABHOW’s communities. Each features a similar innovative design.

The Grove was recognized for its unique approach to design in 2012 when the publisher of Over 50s Housing Weekly, a UK-based senior care newspaper, named The Grove the “Most Outstanding Memory Care Plan in the World.” The award nomination specifically highlighted innovative design concepts at The Grove at The Terraces of Los Gatos.

ABHOW continues to innovate and create new ways to serve residents. In The Grove at Rosewood in Bakersfield, Calif., residents are testing a technological tool created by ABHOW. The program, Relative Peace of Mind, uses a projection screen to show photos of a resident’s loved ones, reminders or favorite quotes in an effort to relieve the stress associated with remembering details.

Following in the footsteps of The Terraces of Los Gatos, other ABHOW communities such as The Terraces at Los Altos in Los Altos, Calif., and Las Ventanas in Las Vegas, will open Grove communities in coming months.

ABHOW’s expansion of The Grove is indicative of a growing nationwide move to meet the increasing need for improved memory care for older adults suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to a recent report from the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing Industry, memory care construction is on the rise across the United States, despite a depressed economy.

As of March 31, 2013, there were 13,688 apartments under construction at assisted living properties, including freestanding memory care properties, the report says. This is a 51 percent increase over 2012 growth.

It is likely that construction will continue to rise as an increasing number of older adults are diagnosed with memory-related diseases in the years ahead.

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 5.2 million Americans today are living with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, the number of adults age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s may nearly triple – from 5 million to 13.8 million, the organization reports.

With such staggering statistics, leading organizations like ABHOW believe quality care systems need to be in place now.

Rising national attention to memory-related problems like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, especially from the government, is helping pave the way for growth.

In January 2011, President Obama signed into law the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA). In 2012, the administration released the first ever National Plan to Fight Alzheimer’s Disease. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the national plan lays out strategies for new research projects, improved tools for clinicians, easier access to support for caregivers and an aggressive awareness campaign.

Concerned health care leaders from around the country have also come together to form the Dementia Initiative, a national effort to address dementia care.

“Given the already staggering financial and caregiving demands of dementia, the country is facing significant if not crippling societal challenges if effective ways are not implemented soon to address and better manage the care, services and supports for people living with dementia and their care partners,” initiative participants said in their seminal white paper, “Dementia Care: The Quality Chasm.”

The Dementia Initiative calls for national proliferation of a person-centered approach consistent with what ABHOW pioneered in The Grove in the mid-1990s. It was then that dementia care expert and ABHOW consultant David Troxel worked with Virginia Bell to create The Best Friends Approach used today throughout ABHOW’s memory support communities. Several years later, ABHOW became the first multi-site organization in the nation to receive CARF-CCAC accreditation for dementia care.

The Best Friends model stems from the belief that everyone, especially those who may be struggling with confusion or loneliness, needs a best friend. With insight into preferences, dislikes and personal stories, Grove team members can give special attention to each resident, helping them feel cared for and secure.

“We all have a best friend, someone you can’t wait to tell a happy thing or someone who’s a shoulder to cry on,” says Cheregosha, who is ABHOW’s master trainer of The Best Friends Approach. “Residents don’t just need someone to take care of them, they need a best friend, someone to sit down and eat with them, someone to trust and share with. That’s when best friends learn the life stories of our residents.”

Through a series of questions, Grove team members learn everything about their residents, from where they went to college to their favorite food or vacation.

“We try to build relationships,” Cheregosha says. “That’s extremely important.”

Geraldine says the team members at The Grove are like an extension of their own family. “Today, we received a text message of a picture of my mom out on a field trip,” Geraldine says. “I know she’s happy, she’s engaged. It’s just wonderful.”

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