“Where did I leave my car keys?”
But is that simple mystery a sign of just forgetfulness or the initial symptom of something more serious, of a memory-related illness?
In fact, more than 16 million people in the U.S. are living with some form of cognitive impairment, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control, and an estimated 5.1 million Americans 65 years and older may currently have Alzheimer’s disease, the most well-known disease that can cause cognitive impairment
For that reason, programs throughout Diakon focus on memory support and care, not only for those affected by memory-related illnesses but also those who care for them. Such tasks often can take a toll on the family members who provide care.
Earlier this year, among other efforts, a Diakon Senior Living Services community took special steps to support residents affected by memory-related illnesses—and their caregivers.
“While there is no ‘cure’ for many disorders that cause cognitive impairments, there are strategies that many experts believe can help slow the decline in memory and thinking skills,” says Cindy Bonney, senior executive director at Luther Crest in Allentown, Pennsylvania. “One of our goals is to help residents age in place with support services that address both physical and cognitive needs.”
With that goal in mind, she and Michelle Gaugler, administrator of personal care at Luther Crest, researched, brainstormed and identified opportunities for increased support and services at every level of care—independent living, personal care and traditional nursing care—for Luther Care residents with cognitive impairments.
“These programs will contribute to the quality of life of our residents.”
The result was a two-year plan with teams and task forces to work on the programs identified in the plan, including staff and family education, community speakers, a music and memory program, and more.
Their plans dovetailed with the interests of a generous supporter and resident of Luther Crest.
“At the time we were developing this campus plan, Charlotte Staton, a 10-year resident of Luther Crest, had a vision for an activity program for independent living residents with cognitive impairments and their care partners,” says Gaugler. “Program participants would benefit from a specialized activity program that helps brain health.”
That partnership resulted in a ribbon-cutting ceremony this summer for the Charlotte M. Staton Center for Holistic Health.
“Thanks to Charlotte’s generous donation, a former conference room was transformed into a place where Luther Crest can elevate programming and support services for residents with memory-related issues,” says Bonney.
“The Center for Holistic Health was created to serve as a multipurpose room where such activity programs, dementia support groups, planning meetings, and other efforts could take place as we move forward with developing and implementing additional programs and services for those with cognitive impairments,” Gaugler adds.
For example, the Connections Program for independent living residents who have memory-related issues began shortly after the ribbon-cutting. With a specially trained activity staff member, residents can take part in specialized activities meant to maintain neural connections, which can slow down deterioration of the brain, as well as provide family members with a break from caregiving.
“The Charlotte M. Staton Center for Holistic Health is an encompassing program, which will contribute to the quality of life of our residents,” Bonney says.
Some of the memory-focused activity items within the Charlotte M. Staton Center for Holistic Health.