Pathway to Living Imports Australia-Based Memory Care Program

Another U.S. senior living provider is drawing on dementia care concepts from abroad

Chicago-based Pathway to Living announced on Thursday that its new assisted living and memory care community, Aspired Living of Westmont, set to open later this month in Westmont, Illinois, will be the first senior housing community in the U.S. to offer an alternative dementia care model developed in Australia. 

The program, called Spark of Life, was first launched in 2007 under the director of Jane Verity, the founder of Dementia Care International and the first person to bring person-centered care to Australia and Scandinavia. 


Pathway is integrating Spark of Life into its Knew Day Memory Care program because it was drawn to this person-centered care model, according to Maria Oliva, COO of Pathway to Living. 

“We were drawn to the approach of not just providing an environment of good care and programming, but also creating an environment where people with dementia can still develop new experiences and memories through emotional engagement,” Oliva said. 

This breaks down to a care strategy where caregivers ask memory care residents to help them with things like laundry so that they feel purposeful. Caregivers also invite residents to engage in programming that will give them choices, as well as opportunities to feel loved and have their self-esteem boosted.


Another goal of the program is to reduce the amount of antidepressants, antipsychotics and sedatives often administered to memory care residents.

Not only does this care model generate positive outcomes for memory care residents, but it also creates a more productive and manageable environment for the senior community staff, according to Oliva. 

“Spark of Life practices minimize challenging behaviors such as wandering, repetitive questioning, hoarding and refusing assistance,” Oliva said. “That’s the value to the team: the environment is more productive and the staff feels so rewarded when they form more positive engagements with the residents.”

Pathway to Living is the first senior living provider to become certified in the Spark of Life program, probably because of the significant financial commitment involved, according to Oliva. Pathway sent staff members to Australia for a three-week course in order to become certified master practitioners, a requirement for implementation of the program. 

Though Pathway has implemented Spark of Life practices in several of its communities already, Aspired Living of Westmont, which will open on September 18, will become a Spark of Life Centre of Excellence, a designation that requires the community to meet stringent requirements.

The community was built with this goal in mind—specific spaces were built into its design for Spark of Life programming—but it will take two years of evaluations before it is officially a Centre of Excellence, Oliva noted. 

Written by Elizabeth Jakaitis

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