From the first time the memory-impaired person takes off from home unescorted in the middle of the night, the caregiver never has another night’s rest. Will he run off again? Will he get hurt if he does?
As one’s memory loss becomes ever more acute, the challenges for the family multiply until there is no break in the 24/7 physical and emotional demands being placed on them. Hence a need for assisted living arrangements develops. At the Sylvestry the administration and staff understand all of these issues. Marketing Director Dave DeClark explains, “We consider all of our residents from multiple perspectives, including social, nutritional, and clinical needs – and pay particular attention to the family members also.
“A major concern is: who takes care of the family member/caregiver? We don’t want them to be the forgotten group.” Indeed bringing their loved one to a new home can create a lot of guilt. At The Sylvestry the family is encouraged to be a significant part of the resident’s life.
The clinical team encourages regular visits and there is much freedom for the families to take the residents out frequently. As much as possible the center includes the family in caretaking discussions and activities. “We want the family member to say “I’m really glad they’re here.” “ says DeClark. In fact the resident council meetings are really family council meetings as some residents can’t speak for themselves.
Another factor of note is that The Sylvestry is one part of the Vinson Hall Retirement Community which also comprises independent living, assisted living and nursing care. The management looks to maintain the community aspect as individuals may move from one facility to another. Spouses often live within the community but at another level of care. Ion fact one group of ladies used to get together while living at Vinson Hall and now they play cards together at The Sylvestry.
The decision to establish The Sylvestry was made because there was a pressing need for a memory support facility in the community. Previously the Arleigh Burke Pavilion was used for memory-impaired residents. However the population is aging in place so Vinson Hall needs to design and plan for the future. The goal is to give the residents the best possible life experience while they can still enjoy it. The Sylvestry uses an all-inclusive pricing model without charging for add-ons. That allows families to pre-budget as the preparations are made.
The building itself was designed specifically to cater to the needs and safety of memory-impaired residents. As you enter the building, you see the beautiful Compass Rose Café where the residents can enjoy their lunch or dinner in a charming setting. From the lobby one continues along beautiful hallways, past delightful courtyards, and through numerous gathering spaces where residents can socialize and share activities.
Safety is of paramount importance. Certain residents may decide to take a walk at 3 am. They are not prevented from doing so, and due to the continuous hallway design they can move easily without encountering dead-ends which can be frustrating. The staff always watch the individual rooms and check on the residents very regularly. In fact The Sylvestry meets or exceeds all regulations and compliance requirements for assisted living care and even look after residents on a one-to-one basis as needed.
There are 36 private suites, each with full bath, which are constantly updated as new residents arrive. Each has the same floor plan with either a left or right orientation, but they can be customized with furniture for the individual desires of the resident and family. Safety issues are key which accounts for the size and positioning of the major furniture.
Cubbies can be designed to create interesting variations and the facility provides cable if desired. The bed is oriented to the toilet so that the individual can easily see it, reducing the level of incontinence, which helps assure their dignity. The individual bathrooms are “wet” rooms without shower stalls. Balance bars are always near and even the towel holders double as balance bars. The table lamps are attached to the bedside tables and can’t be knocked off. The science of designing for folks with dementia must take all manner of issues into account.
TV’s are not automatically offered as the goal is to draw the residents into more social settings. They are engaged with a network of people and the staff promotes the human interaction as much as possible.
As one could predict, there is a low turnover rate of employees. Many have been with The Sylvestry since it opened in 2002 which helps because they know the residents, they know the family members, they are part of life here at The Sylvestry. In return the families are happy because the staff is taking great care of their loved one. By knowing the residents, they can watch for red flags. If a resident’s eating habits change quickly, they can react to assist the individual who can’t always communicate.
Regular activities are cognitive-centered, including various speakers, trunk shows, music therapy, book and current event discussions. There are birthdays and visits from outside groups. Recently the Girl Scouts held an ice cream social for the residents. There is a sensory oasis – a room with colors everywhere, lights, and all manner of objects for tactile stimulation. There is even a memory therapy robotic seal, Paro, who is a resident favorite. Four courtyards include such diversions as grills and a potter’s shed for the gardeners. There is even a washer/dryer available for those who find a sense of purpose in laundry activities.
Our craft room is available for the messier activities. Fitness instructors keep many residents active and leisure time can include spa time when they can soak and get their nails done, and regular appointments at the in-house barber shop and beauty salon are often on one’s schedule. In short residents at the Sylvestry enjoy a busy and fulfilling life in a setting of great caring, dignity, and safety.