Alzheimer’s Awareness Month – LVP Memory Care Floor

One…two…three.

Someone has just been diagnosed with Dementia.

One…two…three.

Someone is starting to forget who they are, where they are, and how to do basic tasks.

The thought sounds completely terrifying and disorienting, but it’s a reality for over 50 million people worldwide, with a new one joining them every three seconds.

September is World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s is the most well-known form of dementia and makes up for 50-60% of its cases. According to WorldAlzMonth.org, “Dementia is a collective name for progressive brain syndromes which affect memory, thinking, behaviour and emotion. It is the leading cause of disability and dependency among the elderly, and although each person will experience it in their own way, they will eventually be unable to care for themselves and need help with all aspects of daily life.

That is where the dedicated staff at Luther Village on the Park come in, or more specifically, those involved in its 33-resident Memory Care Floor.

Added to the Sunshine Centre for assisted living close to two years ago, the Memory Care Floor is well-equipped with staff from nurses to activity coordinators, social workers to a music therapist.

Director of Resident Care Josephine Castillo oversees the staff and builds relationships with residents and their families to ensure they receive the highest level of care possible.

She takes pride in knowing that her staff go above and beyond to meet the needs of each resident in her care.

“One day I was doing my rounds and was trying to communicate with a patient I wasn’t very familiar with,” says Josephine. “She just stared at me and wouldn’t answer my questions after I told her who I was and why I was there. A Personal Support Worker must have heard me struggling, because they popped their head in and informed me that this particular resident only responds to singing. So, I sang her my questions, and it worked!”

Josephine added that the woman’s son was so grateful for the lengths the staff go to for communicating and caring for his mother, that it made his decision to bring her to Luther Village easier.

Aside from building unique relationships with residents, keeping them busy with varying activities is vital for their wholistic wellbeing. Memory Care Activities Coordinator Mandy Holmes has ten years of experience with long-term dementia care and knows her position is no small task.

Although she has only been at Lutherwood for three months, she already finds her role incredibly rewarding, saying her favourite part is when the residents start recognizing her and smiling when she enters their rooms.

“My role consists of planning the monthly Activity Calendar,” says Mandy. “I try to balance my calendar to include programs of all domains including intellectual, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social.”

Some of the daily programs include a worship service, “Helping Hands” where residents help with everyday tasks from folding towels to sorting socks, reminiscing groups, gentle fitness, music therapy and a new “Music and Memory” program that is particularly exciting. 

“One of my most memorable moments so far here was when I provided a gentleman with his iPod for the Music and Memory program,” says Mandy.  “This man is from Holland and his daughter provided Dutch music to load onto it.  When I turned on his music, this otherwise serious, somber man, cracked a big beautiful smile at the sound of his familiar music. This happens a lot with this program.”

Personal Support Worker Supervisor Wendy Rowland agrees that contrary to the stigma, dementia doesn’t always have to be ‘doom and gloom’.

“There are fun times and happy times which are nice to see,” says Wendy. “The objective of the PSWs is to see someone come into memory care and improve to some degree. To give them a clean living space, encourage their independence and to teach them how to accept help when they do need it.”

Wendy says that is one of the struggles in memory care, having a formerly independent person need assistance with things like baths, morning routines, and other day-to-day supports that the PSWs provide. It’s hard to admit that you can no longer do these things on your own.

Residents can become understandably frustrated, so the workers on the front line are all well-trained, patient and hard-working on the Memory Care Floor. “It can sometimes be a thankless job, but when the families comment on and appreciate the care we’re providing their loved ones, it makes it all worthwhile.”

A new method of care coming to the Memory Care Floor in the coming weeks is something called MemorySparx Connect. In an effort to keep up with changing technology and provide the highest level of service, the Sunshine Centre is bringing in this web-based tool to further aid its residents. This secure, private Facebook-type online application will allow families to share photos and videos with their loved ones in real time as well as old albums, and allow staff and patients to keep track of wellness journals, calendars, medication, and more.

The staff at the Sunshine Centre know that it’s never easy to have a parent on the Memory Care Floor, and they hope this app will help them feel more connected, along with a few words of advice. Wendy says the most important things you can do are to stay informed on dementia and the individual needs of your loved one, and to not feel guilty with your decision that they need more professional help, because families can always help in their own ways.

“Loved ones have a unique advantage when it comes to caring for someone with dementia,” says Mandy Holmes. “They know the ‘real person’ behind the disease, and all things should be approached with love. It’s important for families to remember that the resident didn’t choose this.  All actions that we may perceive as ‘aggressive’ or ‘bothersome’ or ‘repetitive’ are most of the time their way of trying to communicate a problem, or that they’re scared.”

“Caring for people with dementia poses the unique challenge of seeing your loved one’s behaviour change,” says Josephine Castillo. “It’s important to practice creativity, flexibility and compassion on a day to day basis. Learn and understand how to communicate with them. They are still your loved one.”