Courtyard Assisted Living:
Vision to help the aging with memory
The Courtyard Assisted Living Facility in Deep Creek will undergo changes soon that will bring a much-needed service to Charlotte County, Karen Hallenbeck, the facility's administrator and consultant said.
The well-appointed building, that has recently undergone cosmetic changes that makes it look more like a hotel than an assisted living facility, will become a memory care unit that will help add to the quality of life for its residents.
Hallenbeck recently joined the team to help as a consultant. "So we could become a standard, licensed memory care unit by next year."
A memory care unit, she explained, is a community for people with early to mid stages of dementia, including Alzheimer's. "This is something I have wanted to do for a long time," she said. "I have been the mother of a child with Down's syndrome, and through his life, we have had to have go through several therapies, one of them being memory."
The programs they use for Down's syndrome, she explained, are similar for those with dementia patients. "The key, the big focus," she said, "is to maintain quality of life, not only for the residence, but also for the family members."
"We plan on using many forms of therapies," she continued, "including recreational therapy, to help them maintain as many of their skills as possible."
The community, which is licensed for up to 50 residents, is undergoing the process of getting its licensing for memory care and anticipates that more than two-thirds of the residents will be those who are memory impaired. "We will still be taking in assisted living residents, but what I am seeing now is a lot of people are waiting longer to go into assisted living because of financial issues or because they want to. Our whole industry has changed a lot in the last 10 years."
"We also want to make sure that those who come here have appropriate services based on their needs. We are starting our staff on Alzheimer's One and Two training so they are ready once we transition. We want our foundation solid so when we start, we do it right."
"We are going to be different than other memory care units in the area, and we will have a niche, which is going to be a couple of things -- it is set up perfectly for memory care because the courtyard is in the middle and the dining area is centrally located."
"Also, we have the ability to separate male and female because the apartments are on each side of the building and that makes it perfect for this type of care -- it is important -- they can eat together, but in a memory care environment, you really should separate male and female."
Hallenbeck explained that the facility wants to ensure recreational therapy is top notch. "It is key. It keeps people moving, it keeps them productive, and it helps cognitively in all stages of dementia."
"Many of the facilities that use recreational therapy use activities like bingo which is part of it, but recreational therapy is much more than that. It is working on the activities of daily living almost through play sometimes," she explained. "Or bringing someone into the kitchen area and helping them to cook because that is what they used to do when they were younger. You reminisce, you work on buttoning and unbuttoning using props. We will use sensory and aromatherapy -- it goes on and on -- anything to help kick in the memory. Sometimes you don't know the right key and you have to search for it."
The facility will also have group activities. "They all like that. I am even thinking of starting some group ballet for the ladies for balance. Things like that to make them feel like women again. And for the men, it is a bit different," she explained adding they are often looking for a companion to help them with everyday things.
Knowing the family is as important as knowing the resident, she said. "A lot of times, they will have answers for you that will help get through."
"We will also have a support group for the families to participate in," she added.
Many people with dementia may experience themselves as being somewhere else or during another time. "I tell the staff, never argue with them in that state. They are in their happy place and on a journey."
"If someone comes up to you and says, 'My mother just called and she said she was coming to pick me up.' Many would respond, 'I am sorry, but your mother is gone.' I tell them to join the journey and say, 'Your mother just called back and said she will probably meet you in your room.' By the time you get them there and you redirect, they usually are more back, mentally."
According to Hallenbeck, the population of those with dementia is growing. "But, people are more educated about it than they were in the past. In the past, it was just considered part of aging. Grandma or grandpa are just getting old and lost their memory -- but with such good medical care out there, which is continuing to grow and they are finding more ways to treat memory issue, things are getting better."
"I feel in the future there are going to be more services and ideas to help those who have memory deficits."
The staff, she said, will undergo extensive training through the Alzheimer's Association to prepare them for the influx of new residents. "That is only the initial training. After that, I plan on having each staff member, to be watching videos and read. They are going to be provided with all the information available out there to help them do their jobs. I want them to be able to talk to family members because it is a terrible experience for them to watch a loved one go through this. Understanding the disease helps them cope better."
"In the process right now, we are building the foundation. The security system is in place. We are getting a limited nursing license and an extended care license to go along with the assisted living license. Right now, we are still available for assisted living care."
Recently, a new activities room with a kitchen was added, as was a store and an ice cream parlor. "Down the road in one of the empty apartments in the back, we want to put in a calm room with soft music and aromas, soft colors and fabrics, for those that need it."
"Each person will have a plan," she said, explaining that if someone was into reading when they were younger, based on that need, we would make sure they had that emphasized in their plan. "You have to make it a good specialized plan for each resident."
"The first time I came in, I said, 'Wow, this building would be perfect for a memory care unit," she said. "The building is out of the way and the people on the staff all the way from the caregivers to the cooks to housekeeping are such great people. We get this going in the right direction, it is going to be outstanding."
Hallenbeck said the facility should be ready to receive memory care residents sometime in March 2011. "We are all so excited that we can bring this to the county."
The facility is located at 26455 Rampart Blvd., in Deep Creek. For more information, contact the Courtyard Assisted Living Facility at 941-624-2225.