Isakson Living Imports Dementia Care Model from the UK

One Georgia-based senior living provider is bucking the traditional American model of senior care by being the first in the U.S. to implement a UK-based care model centered on empathy.

Isakson Living has recently opened Park Springs, a resort-style continuing care retirement community (CCRC) located roughly 15 miles northeast of Atlanta in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Not only is the community the first in the state to adopt a household model of senior care, it is also the first in the nation to launch Dementia Care Matters’ (DCM) “Butterfly Household Model of Care” for residents living with memory loss.

Changing the narrative


In the 14 years since the company’s inception, Isakson Living had always strived to improve the long-term care it delivers to its residents, explained Andy Isakson, managing partner.

“We’ve always had a great lifestyle proposition and we’ve always had great health care, but we’re looking to improve the lifestyle proposition of [residents] living in long-term [care, so] we adopted the household model of care,” Isakson told Senior Housing News.

Under this model, residents are assembled and taken care of in smaller groups, which operate much like a home, he explained.


The company also sought to revitalize the method of care it provides to residents living with dementia, according to Isakson. After being introduced to DCM, Isakson initiated a conversation with DCM founder and CEO David Sheard to “[change] the narrative nationally,” starting with Isakson Living.

Established in the UK in 1995, DCM’s Butterfly Household Model of Care takes an “emotion-based” approach to providing care for individuals living with dementia, and promotes the importance of a nurturing and empathetic staff. After piloting the program over a five-year period in the UK, DCM branched out to other countries, including Ireland, Canada and Australia.

“We were very nervous and hesitant about going into any other country, where each has its own cultures of care, regulatory system, leadership and nursing,” Sheard told SHN. “But, what was interesting was… we found that the key issues are universal.”

Focus on empathy

The need to focus on the psychology of care lies at the heart of DCM’s Butterfly Model, with the emphasis placed on developing the caregiver’s emotional intelligence in order to make a successful connection with the dementia patient, according to Sheard.

“The only way you create real connections to people with dementia is if you accept that people with dementia are more ‘feeling beings’ than ‘thinking beings,’” said Sheard. “The culture of care has to be one that is more about emotional connection than about the traditional delivery of health care.”

In order for care providers to successfully refine their emotional intelligence, DCM puts them through several workshops where DCM staff, as well as staff from the host community, are invited to share intimate, key moments in their “emotional life journey,” as well as how those experiences have defined them, according to Sheard.

“When dementia takes away the neurons of short-term memory, and takes away the neurons [associated with] positive experiences in life, it’s the tough stuff in life that remains undamaged in people with dementia,” said Sheard. “Therefore, staff have to find a way to understand how people with dementia don’t remember their memories but [actually] live them.”

The year-long program will ultimately encourage care providers to grow their emotional intelligence, and connect with and interpret a dementia patient’s feelings to ensure the best outcomes for their daily life, according to Isakson.

While the Butterfly Model is still in the development stage at Isakson’s Park Springs community, Isakson explained that the company has plans to implement the program at its future community, Peachtree Hills Place in Atlanta.

DCM, on the other hand, is already in talks to implement the Butterfly Model in communities operated by two California-based providers, according to Sheard.

Written by Carlo Calma

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