Leisure Care’s New Memory Care Program Puts Resident Preferences First

Leisure Care has invested $280,000 in a new memory care program aimed at letting its residents have their perfect day.

The Seattle-based senior living owner, operator and developer has rolled out the new program, Opal, at 10 of its memory care communities, with plans to implement it in seven more by year’s end. Leisure Care currently runs 36 communities in 14 states, and could operate as many as 42 communities by the end of 2018. Many of those new communities will have memory care components, and Opal’s rollout coincides with that growth.

At its core, Opal is a program that puts residents’ preferences above all else. It follows seven core pillars of wellness—defined by Leisure Care as physical; social; experiential; emotional and spiritual; creative and artistic; therapeutic; and sensory—to help build a care plan that aids and complements a resident’s abilities as their needs change over time.

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The name Opal came about after many hours of brainstorming a name that would represent exactly what made memory care residents “twinkle,” said Chelsia Hart, Leisure Care’s digital marketing director. The eureka moment occurred when Dan Madsen, Leisure Care’s CEO, stopped at one of the country’s largest opal mines during a trip to visit his mother.

“An opal displays vibrant hues of light pink, emerald green and sapphire blue as you maneuver it, seemingly changing colors,” Hart told Senior Housing News. “In that sense, the stone is a beautiful way to represent the different facets of the Opal program. No opal is exactly the same—just like our residents.”

Story of their life

The program hinges on something called a “life story document,” which is a four-page binder detailing a resident’s personal preferences and history. Using the life story document, staffers can then come up with a daily regimen that works specifically for that resident, according to Matt Webster, Leisure Care’s director of memory care.

“We can develop a care plan that is unique and specific that individual’s life story.” Webster told SHN. “By focusing on remaining abilities and not focusing on what’s missing, we’re really able to capture what makes a memory care community special.”

Leisure CareEmployees also use another document, dubbed “100 Things About Me,” to record a resident’s preferences on a day-to-day basis as their condition and abilities change. Taken together, the two documents are meant to inform what a resident’s “perfect” day might resemble.

For example, staffers might prioritize one activity a resident loves or serve them their coffee the way they want it. And there are other ways employees customize the care they provide, like giving a resident weighted utensils or specially made finger foods during meals.

“If we know that one of our residents likes to read the newspaper with a cup of coffee every day, that’s not something we’re going to put on the activity calendar,” Webster explained. “But that’s programming that’s going to be as effective, if not more effective for that individual, than anything we put on the calendar because it’s unique to them.”

A typical Leisure Care community’s memory care wing might house between 20 and 55 residents, and it takes about three days of intensive, hands-on training to first introduce the an employee to the Opal program. To date, Leisure Care has spent about $280,000 training its employees for Opal, Webster said.

Focus on memory care

Leisure CareLeisure Care’s push to revamp its memory care program comes as it enters a general “acquisition and growth mode,” Webster said. The company recently acquired two communities in Ohio, and plans to add five more memory care communities this year through acquisition or development.

“So much of our growth going forward is in the business of memory care, as is the case with many operators throughout the country,” Webster said. “[Opal] was a chance to hit that reset button and really develop something that was going to be meaningful and impactful and life-changing for our memory residents.”

The focus on memory care also includes repositioning some of its existing properties to meet the needs of memory care residents. For example, Leisure Care recently completed a remodel of the memory care wing at its Russellville Park community in Portland, Oregon.

That renovation cost between $800,000 and $1.1 million and upgraded the community’s dining facilities, opened up its common areas and retooled floor coverings and wall colors to help residents differentiate and recall the spaces in which they live.

Moving forward, the company will send out surveys to family members and employees to determine what’s working best. But so far, the results have been “overwhelmingly positive,” Webster said.

Written by Tim Regan

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