In Gig Harbor, Washington, a senior living life plan community has implemented a new model aimed at improving resident wellness and brain health.
In June of this year, the leadership of Heron’s Key implemented a new program called Saido Learning. The program traces its roots back to Japan in 2001, and today is used by some senior living operators across the world.
Heron’s Key is using the new program to give memory care residents daily tasks associated with brain health, such as reading, writing and math, with a goal of delaying the onset of more serious dementia symptoms.
Implementation of the program was made possible by a grant from the LeadingAge Washington state chapter. Since its implementation, Saido methods have helped improve brain health and lessen the symptoms associated with the later stages of dementia, according to Saido Trainer and Social Services Coordinator Sandi Semler.
“It engages our residents in a way that we weren’t currently using and Saido is very much a person-centered approach to dementia care,” Semler said. “Consistency is really key.”
Residents, known as “learners” within the Saido program, work with two staff members and go through a series of worksheets and other activities that last between 20 to 30 minutes, Monday through Friday.
The results have helped residents improve memory and emotional wellbeing.
“We’re seeing a decrease in exit-seeking behavior and we’re seeing a decrease in anxiety and repetitive concerns,” Semler said.
At the end of every month, each participant in the program is evaluated to determine their progress and to ensure they’re at the right level. There’s a balance between finding where residents belong within the program, Semler added.
Semler coordinates the sessions and updates the tracking data to make sure residents are moving along at the right pace in the program. The program has even helped increase engagement among staff, some of whom are now interested in the program and want to help out or receive training.
“We want to just continue to build on that,” Semler said. “Hopefully that results in networking with other facilities in our area so that if they hear about it, they might want to get involved, too.”
The goal of the program at Heron’s Key is ultimately to help more residents, and results have started to already pay off for family members as well.
“It benefits their family members as well because they can begin to see the changes and they can see their mom again, they can see their dad again in that person that was otherwise hidden by their symptoms,” Semler said.
As senior living demand remains elevated, Semler said she hopes the stigma around dementia and memory care will begin to fade as more people enter senior living communities. In the future, she hopes more operators consider implementing Saido training to help those living with dementia.
“These are human beings who have value and have capabilities and we need to be focusing on them and their quality of life when they’re at or in cognitive decline,” Semler said.