More Than “Memory Care” – A Commitment To Enhancing Quality Of Life
The latest figures show that Alzheimer’s is a disease we shouldn’t ignore. More than 6 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, including about 1 in 9 seniors who are 65 or older. By 2050, it is projected that 12.7 million seniors will have Alzheimer’s. Thus, clear prioritization must be placed on expert care as well as effective research that leads to proactive and preventive solutions for this disease.
As we recognize Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, I’m grateful for the contributions Brookdale Senior Living has given over the last 30 years in the healthcare community as a leader in taking dementia care to the next level. Our care capabilities have been a differentiator in the senior living industry as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias can be especially challenging for persons living with dementia, their loved ones, and caregivers alike. Dementia care communities offer an ideal environment for people living with various forms of dementia.
One way Brookdale has achieved an industry-leading program is through the leadership of dementia care expert, Juliet Holt Klinger, who has helped lead the way toward shifting views from dementia as purely a medical concern to a more holistic approach. Juliet has been a true pioneer in the dementia care space for 35 years. During her 15 years at Brookdale, she has focused on programmatic standards that uphold person-centered care principles such as consistent assignment of care partners where possible and putting the residents before the task. It’s about more than “memory care.” It’s about getting to know each resident, what lights them up, and then helping them continue to shine. In other words, everyone wants to live an engaged, empowered, and enriched life, including those living with dementia—and we know it’s possible.
Dementia Care Re-imagined
When your approach to care is reimagined, it’s amazing the kind of results you can achieve. Consider the difference that can be made when incorporating the perspective of the patient or resident—particularly in the case of someone with dementia. If we know that dementia doesn’t just affect one’s memory; it impacts the five senses as well. Understanding this, we can begin to understand just how crucial their environment becomes as it relates to their quality of life. Customizing the world they interact with—from physical design like furniture and carpet to artwork and other facets of life—can help individuals with dementia adjust as their senses and sensations adjust. This extends to all experiences. Some of the newest “reimagined” renovations we completed focus on developing productive green spaces—both indoors and outdoors. The spaces include features like sensory and working garden areas to maximize our residents’ engagement with nature. Our dining team won an Argentum Best of the Best Award for the custom brain-health diet we offer residents. And we regularly work with the National Institute of Health to study and advance dementia care across the country and beyond.
Of course, in today’s world, leveraging technology can be an effective tool for care. We have a Brookdale innovation council whose members research and test potential solutions.
Some of our recent technology implementations include robotic pets, light systems that exercise the brain, senior-specific social engagement platforms, fall prevention systems, amplification for residents with hearing loss, and even virtual reality training so associates can better understand the perspective of someone living with dementia.
Committed to a Cure
Care is critical, but so is finding a cure. Each year, we are committed to funding a leading organization seeking a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. During 2020, while serving and supporting tens of thousands of residents and associates during the pandemic, we maintained our commitment. With the efforts of our associates, residents, and vendors, we raised almost $1.2 million for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s®. That amount is slightly higher than what was raised in each of the previous two years, which is a noteworthy feat considering this was done during a global pandemic! Including this contribution, Brookdale has raised more than $19 million since 2008 to support the care, support, and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association, and we are focusing on raising more.
The challenges of aging are personal for most of us. Many of us have known and loved someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. For me, it was my father-in-law. It’s in their honor that we continue to work toward advancing the way we care for those with dementia and their families. In the words of author Roy T. Bennett, “Be the light that helps others see; it is what gives life its deepest significance.”