The woman with the long grey hair, sweet smile, and Brooklyn moxie played one final piano flourish and turned to the crowd at The Sheridan at Green Oaks, receiving applause and thanks. A group of about 20 memory care residents at the Senior Lifestyle facility in suburban Chicago were gathered for a concert with an opera singer, and the woman with the grey hair—a member of the adult day program—was entertaining them as an impromptu opening act.
That kind of personalized opportunity is a cornerstone of Embrace, the memory care program that the Chicago-based provider launched two years ago. After a pilot program, Senior Lifestyle started introducing the program in stages throughout its portfolio, including at The Sheridan at Green Oaks. The community opened April 24 of this year with independent living, followed by assisted living and memory care on June 1. It has 64 memory care units, along with 64 assisted living and 78 independent living.
By the middle of 2018, the plan is for Senior Lifestyle’s entire portfolio to use Embrace for its memory care offering. With more than 2,900 units in 85 communities across 25 states, Senior Lifestyle the fourth-largest memory care provider in the nation, according to Argentum.
“Embrace was born out of this idea that we want to wrap our arms around people on this journey and support them,” program founder Hollie Kemp, Senior Lifestyle’s corporate director of resident experience, told Senior Housing News.
Kemp joined Senior Lifestyle in October 2015, compelled by the provider’s offer to let her spearhead a re-tooling of its memory care program.
“It’s not to say that the prior philosophy was bad, but it wasn’t different,” Kemp said. “There was nothing that set us apart.”
She sums up the overhaul simply: “We kept nothing.”
Building the “Embrace” program
For Kemp, the key to the change is the philosophy.
After evaluating Senior Lifestyle’s existing memory care program, she zeroed in on a philosophy rooted in the latest evidence-based best practices and the personal histories, talents, and needs of each resident. Key features of Embrace include personalized care plans and small-group activities, along with aromatherapy sessions called Essence that adjust the room’s scents and colors for each resident.
Technology is key, too. Kemp and company upgraded the standard memory boxes at resident doorways with digital versions that allow families and staff to upload and rotate photos. Family members receive updates about their loved ones through the Sagely technology platform. Staff undergo a two-day training period to learn the program. When a new resident arrives, the intake process includes staff learning the resident’s history.
The personalized touches build a program tailored to each person’s interests and talents.
When Senior Housing News visited the Illinois community in November, some residents were cutting strawberries to make fruit smoothies while others were participating in a group reading program. These small group activities give each resident something to hold—like a plastic knife or a laminated sheet of paper—and something to do: cutting, reading, gardening, and so on.
“The concert is awesome,” Kemp said about the opera singer’s appearance. “But you don’t want that to be your every day. People need their daily rhythms.”
When residents have a rhythm and a purpose, they move from passive engagement to active engagement, Kemp said. When they are engaged, they feel like they are exactly where they are supposed to be. Their stress is reduced. Their sleep improves. The piano-playing resident in the adult day program, for example, was only on her second day at The Sheridan when she entertained the crowd.
“She’s done a lot of cruising and traveling in her life, and she likened us to her cruiseship,” said Director of Memory Care Brittany Coleman. “Her daughter was relieved. She said, ‘This is exactly what my mom needed. … She was happy and wanted to come back.’”
Strong results sell the program
Before going to investors, Senior Lifestyle conducted a six-community pilot to test the program and determine its return-on-investment (ROI) metrics. Because of the individualized attention given to both staff and residents, Senior Lifestyle rolls out Embrace about 10 communities at a time, based on a combination of site readiness and investor willingness.
“Our investors are so excited about the program that they ask us for it,” Kemp said. “They want to fund it. They want it at their communities. And they come to the training, which is unheard of.”
Though Senior Lifestyle declined to share the total cost of the Embrace rollout, its top four costs are:
- Team training
- Specalized Alzheimer’s products and materials
- Ongoing team support
Shared suites in memory care at the Green Oaks community cost $6,500 per month, all inclusive, while monthly rates for studios range from $7,800 to $8,150.
At trainings and visits, investors see the results that Senior Lifestyle uses to demonstrate ROI:
- Staff turnover, which Embrace has improved by over 20% since its implementation
- Financial outcomes
- Occupancy rate
- Resident behavior and quality of life, such as increased verbalization, decreased anxiety, and decreased need for antipsychotics
- Pride expressed by residents, staff, and family
“When I come through the neighborhood, the residents aren’t sitting in their rooms,” said The Sheridan at Green Oaks Executive Director Drew Kowalski. “Those are their bedrooms. This is their home. I feel a sense of relief when I walk in here, because it’s alive.”
What Kemp, Coleman, Kowalski and the rest of the team are seeing is less exit-seeking behavior, relieved and satisfied loved ones, and proud and resourceful staff.
“It’s not a traditional memory care program,” Kemp said. “You’re not seeing a lot of residents sleeping, or wandering around wondering where they should be. They have a purpose. Our investors feel that. Our team members feel that. It gives us great pride.”
Written by Jack Silverstein