Carrington Conversations: Director of Dementia Programs Talks About Memory Care Updates and Programs

By May 16, 2023 News, Senior Living
director of dementia talks memory care

Two years ago, The Carrington introduced MOSAIC Personalized Care, a multifaceted approach to memory care. The unique concept is aimed at improving daily experiences, preserving dignity, offering peace of mind for residents and their families, encouraging independence, and empowering residents who experience signs of cognitive decline or memory loss. It’s inspired by Teepa Snow’s Positive Approach to Care (PAC) model of focusing on enhancing awareness and increasing dementia care skills. Unlike standardized care programs, MOSAIC features three levels of person-centered care tailored to each resident’s needs and wants. The Mezzanine level provides early- to mid-stage memory care, bridging the gap between independent/assisted living and long-term memory care. We chatted recently with Kelly Burnett, director of dementia programs, about the MOSAIC program, what life is like for residents and how the memory care team members enhance their dementia knowledge and care skills.

Q: Tell us more about the Mezzanine level of care offered at The Carrington.

A: The Mezzanine neighborhood has private apartments for residents in the moderate stage of dementia. They need a bit more structure than traditional assisted living, but they’re not necessarily ready for the long-term memory care experience provided in our Tessera level. Mezzanine residents have their own private dining room and their choice of ordering off the regular menu or a custom one based on the RUSH University MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet. The MIND diet is typically high in vegetables, lean protein, fruits, and whole grains. It’s tailored to help reduce inflammation in the brain, which studies show helps slow the progression of dementia. Offering our memory care residents this specialized MIND diet is a standout feature of our community. I’ve worked in many senior living communities and haven’t seen anything like this before.

Q: What other changes are new to the MOSAIC program?

A: One of my first big projects was recreating Life Story, a profile questionnaire we give residents, their family members and those involved in their care. It’s very in-depth, with questions that cover their childhood and family history, daily routine, religion, hobbies, education, career, military service, favorite memories and significant life events. We want to learn how residents like to spend their free time; what their preferences are related to smells, sounds, sights, touch and movement; what brings them comfort; what frustrates them or causes them fear; and what foods, music, sports and movies they love.

Q: How does knowing residents’ life stories affect memory care and dementia programming?

A: The Life Story profile is a collaborative effort that helps us build an activity calendar with more frequent and structured programs. We now have more activities that relate to purposeful living programs. It allows us to form deeper connections with the residents and within the group. We’ve also established some parallel activity programming because not every activity is appropriate for everyone. So while some residents can engage in an art program or Bingo, those who function at a different cognitive level might not fully grasp what’s happening. We can take those residents aside and do smaller group activities that better align with their cognitive level. Our programs are specialized and truly catered to residents’ personalized needs.

Q: What positive changes have you or residents’ family members noticed since we introduced the MOSAIC program?

A: I’ve heard from families that they feel their loved one is more engaged than they had been in the past. Also, I’ve noticed when we do parallel activities with the folks who are functioning at a higher cognitive level, their irritability has gone down significantly because they don’t feel as frustrated. And residents are set up for greater success because the program is more geared toward overall cognition level. When I first started, a few residents weren’t very engaged, but by listening to their life stories, we could target activities for them. For example, we learned a resident was once an art history professor. She gave us an art history presentation, but she’s participated in more art programs in The Carrington community, not just specifically in the Mezzanine neighborhood. Knowing her life story helped us tap into what she previously enjoyed and helped her share her experiences with others.

Q: What’s a day in the life like for a Mezzanine neighborhood resident?

A: After breakfast, we go into programming, starting with exercise. Then we’ll do a cognitive or current activity, such as trivia or finish-the-phrase brain games, which takes us through lunch. After that, we refresh and recharge our batteries and then start another exercise class to get the body moving. Afternoon activities vary from purposeful living to cognitive boosters, such as baking or trivia. There’s a wind-down activity in the evening so residents can relax and prepare for bedtime. It could be hand massages and meditation, or music. Lately, they’ve been interested in concerts, so we’ve been streaming popular philharmonic or orchestral performances.

Q: What are some of the ways you stay connected to residents’ families?

A: I recently started a monthly support group to help bring our community closer together. To keep everyone informed, I send monthly emails highlighting the latest happenings around the neighborhood. Whenever I come across interesting dementia-related content, I’ll share it with the group. Recently, I found a helpful video that simplifies using an iPhone, making it easier for loved ones to call people. I’ll also send personalized emails to families and snap photos of residents during our group outings, which families always seem to appreciate.

Q: How does continuing education relate to the quality of life for residents?

A: A well-trained staff educated in different approaches allows us to provide top-notch care. Our care team always seeks opportunities to learn more and return that knowledge to the community. I take all new hires through a four-hour orientation training and recently completed the Positive Approach to Care Champion Course with our nursing, social services and life enrichment directors. We learned how to make interactions more positive for caregivers and those living with dementia, using hand-under-hand touch to connect in a more effective and less threatening way, and determining where residents are in the dementia classification model so we can best support their cognitive and physical abilities. Also, Sheri Fairman, a certified independent trainer and consultant, is coming here in June for in-house training on the positive approach to care. It’s an incredible opportunity for our community, and we’re so excited about it.

Q: How have dementia and Alzheimer’s attitudes and methods of care evolved and improved?

A: When I started in senior living in 2007, we were using posey belts and restraints, and dementia and Alzheimer’s were considered scary words to many people. I’d hear family members say, “I don’t want my loved one to go there,” or, “That’s where all the crazy people are.” There was a lot of negative talk. We’ve learned so much more about dementia and how to care for unmet needs. We treat residents with a higher sense of dignity and purpose, which helps them embrace a better quality of life. We’re also able to educate families about how we can capture and help create moments of joy with their loved ones.

To learn more about MOSAIC Personalized Care or to request The Carrington’s memory care brochure, call 847-393-4883 or contact us online.

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