Launched by The Carrington at Lincolnwood in 2020, an important new dementia care option now exists for community residents, as well as those within the surrounding area. Known as The Bridge Program, it’s an option especially designed for older adults experiencing early to moderate stages of memory loss that’s not yet advanced enough to require the extra support of a dedicated memory care community.
Julie, a neighbor, recently shared her concern about her mom who had entered a particularly challenging stage of life—early onset dementia. “Mom lives with us and her difficulties have started to impact our family,” Julie says. “It’s just the little things, really. For instance, during dinner, she’ll ask my teenage son, ‘What day is it?’—no less than five times. It’s hard to carry on a conversation with her. We all love mom and want to include her in our life, but I’m starting to ask myself if living with us is best for her at this critical stage in her life.”
Julie’s not alone—sadly, far too many families are facing similar situations. The progressive nature of dementia is well-known. According to the Mayo Clinic, dementia is not actually a disease, but a catch-all term for changes in the brain that cause a loss of functioning that interferes with daily life. Dementia can diminish focus, the ability to pay attention, language skills, problem-solving, and visual perception. All things that Julie, her family, and Mom’s primary physician have begun to notice. Here’s a resource that might help you recognize the signs of dementia.
No matter what you call it, dementia is a journey—for the person living with it; and the family, filled with the reality of gradually losing someone they love. When she was caring for President Ronald Reagan, First Lady Nancy Reagan called their dementia journey “The Long Goodbye.” But as the incidents of dementia increase across our country, more and more care options have become available to families.
The Carrington’s goal in creating The Bridge Program is to provide a neighborhood where seniors can join in on small group activities with other residents experiencing similar memory loss—helping create social connections and reduce isolation, while encouraging residents to age in place. You might say this option combines the services of independent living and memory care.
Here, we’d like to provide additional information on what to expect in seeking and participating in The Bridge Program. This program just may help your family get back to being a family again, while your loved one thrives, is safe, and staying engaged in a nurturing environment of meaningful care.
Making The Transition
The move to any new home can be overwhelming, but even more so when the move is to a care setting. For a person with dementia, their world is growing increasingly smaller, less certain, and they can feel less safe. Change can be especially stressful, especially if it’s a new living environment. Knowing how to prepare, what to expect, and how to support the adjustment can help to make the move as smooth as possible. Experts suggest that families decide on a simple statement about the move. Julie and her family might say, “Mom, we love you very much. It’s important you live where you can be taken care of.”
At The Carrington, we can help in many more ways. We encourage families to become as knowledgeable as possible about our neighborhood of assisted living residences dedicated to The Bridge Program. Our move-in coordinator and nursing staff are available by appointment to give you a tour and explain how the neighborhood works. Plan a visit—or several—with us to observe and ask questions in order to gain a comfort level with the services provided. The more you know, the more confidence you will gain, in both our staff and the environment.
When you visit, talk to staff and provide insight into the personality, likes, dislikes, and personal history of the potential resident. This knowledge will help the staff make a connection, even before the move-in. Ask for any special attention and reassurances the staff might provide to help ease the transition. Depending on your situation, it might make sense to bring the loved one with you to ease the stress and anxiety later. One of The Carrington’s recent blogs offers helpful suggestions for engaging the family in senior living decisions.
Residents and their families who are new to The Bridge Program can expect an initial evaluation conducted by a specialized care team. The result is an Individualized Service Plan (ISP) to personalize the resident’s care needs within a dynamic living environment that provides all the standard services and amenities of assisted living. Based on monthly assessments that monitor improvements and stabilization, the support plan designed for the resident evolves and the ISP is changed as cognitive function progresses through stages. The resident’s family is included in ISP development through quarterly Participation Reports from The Bridge Program Director of Nursing.
Structure & Support
A positive way to look at The Bridge Program is as a new way of living rather than one of care. Routine, however, is especially important where a common goal is to maintain and build on basic skills, like feeding/eating. Residents with cognitive difficulties can easily loose these important functions. Within the program, residents can expect a daily program beginning with relaxation and meditation, and progressing to a full range of therapeutic and engaging activities. Social interaction has proven to be of great benefit for brain health, so small-group activity is a popular format. The life enrichment team for The Bridge Program modifies the engagement and care activities to suit the various needs and levels of care for each resident. These daily activities include:
- Physical exercise for strength, balance, flexibility, and endurance.
- Stress reduction such as meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, and journaling.
- Brain fitness games to strengthen and maintain cognitive function.
- Social activities including home and life skills to promote independence.
- Support groups to foster comfort through shared experiences.
- Mealtime to fulfill a two-fold need for brain-healthy nutrition and socialization.
The Next Step
Every family member deserves a fulfilling life of socialization and enrichment. If you’re encountering a situation like that of Julie and her family, The Bridge Program might be a perfect solution for maintaining the peaceful, loving dynamics you want for your family. Contact us to begin the conversation.