Bridge Senior Living recently launched a newly revamped memory care program with the intention of creating a more person-centric experience.
The program, which Bridge launched in early September to coincide with World Alzheimer’s Month, emphasizes “meeting residents where they are,” a philosophy inspired by the Mary Ann Drummond book with a similar name. Orlando-based Bridge Senior Living manages independent living, assisted living, and memory care communities throughout the Midwest, New England, the Southeast, and the Gulf States.
In order to prepare for the memory care program launch, the teams with Bridge engaged in a deep-dive training to determine where to update processes, Chuck Jennings, senior vice president of wellness, told Memory Care Business.
That training, he said, involved role-playing and journaling exercises, group discussions and the analysis of case studies.
“We trained 100% of our employees and are continuing ongoing with that training,” Jennings said. “All of those individuals interface with residents with memory decline.”
The daily micro-training sessions for staff members, called shift-to-shift huddles, are meant to give staffers skills to deal with the more challenging aspect of their jobs. For example, the company trains workers how to identify behaviors and help residents express their needs. The huddles include reinforcement training as shifts change for frontline staff members.
The company also incorporated design elements into the revamped Lilac Trace memory care neighborhoods with a goal of keeping the spaces as welcoming as possible — a common challenge in secured memory care settings. The memory care units include a wreath and branded nameplates for the neighborhoods.
Drummond’s writing helped Bridge Senior Living realize there is no one-size-fits-all approach to memory care, and that it is up to the staff to meet residents where they are to best help them, Jennings added.
“We do this by showing respect and understanding our residents’ history and what was truly important to them throughout their lives,” Jennings said. “We join our residents on their path and accept them for who they are in the moment, and that moment may shift throughout the course of the day.”
Lilac Trace has a “vault of memories” for residents, each of which is assembled with the help of family members. The vault contains objects that help residents engage different senses and connect with previous stages of their lives. For example, a vault might contain a military patch to look at and hold or a meaningful fragrance for a resident to smell.
Technology is another linchpin of the Lilac Trace memory care program. Families can access an app to connect with residents and get community updates. The app allows for pictures to be shared, personalized updates on a resident and “up to date listings” of a resident’s activities. The idea, Jennings said, is to focus on collaboration with family members to best provide care for the residents.
The team at Bridge Senior Living is exploring leveraging the program in other ways in the future, such as by building in ways to reduce the number of resident falls and further help residents express their needs and wants.
There is no one right way of building a memory care program, Jennings said. But given the industry’s ongoing staffing challenges, he is worried other senior living providers might default to a structured approach to memory care.
“What’s really important for providers in our space to recognize is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ and caring for residents with memory impairment is incredibly fluid,” Jennings said. “We have to be flexible so that we can recognize our residents’ needs and recognize that our residents are not expected to meet us where we are.”
Looking ahead, Lilac Trace is looking to create evidence-based community programming with a catalog of programs and activities for communities to pull from depending on where a resident is in their memory care journey. Jennings said the idea is to take the burden off the community when it comes to developing programming for their residents.