The Time to Move to an Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Facility: how to make it a smooth transition

If moving to another home can be challenging for most people, it becomes especially difficult for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia conditions. Changing homes means an impact to the routine and a need to adapt to a strange place. This can be significantly stressful for all involved. But there are easier ways to handle this situation and help your loved one to adjust to a new environment with qualified professionals that will offer him or her a better and happier life.

The story of Highview Residence

The desire to create a place dedicated to the needs of those with Alzheimer’s goes back nearly two decades. Ruth Constable, who served for many years as director of nursing at Kensington Village, began to dream of building a home-like setting for people struggling with dementia.

With the help of her husband Jack and colleague Camille Taylor, she opened the original Highview in 1996. It established the approach evident at the present-day Highview, a place full of respect where people’s needs and safety are ensured in an atmosphere of dignity. Inspired by her father’s journey with Alzheimer’s, Cathy Chapin and her husband Ross decided in 2002 to build a larger residence specifically for people with dementia. They teamed up with Ruth Constable, who had cared for Cathy’s father, Stan Harris, at Kensington Village. “There was no one better than Ruth to work with to build the new Highview Residences,” Cathy says. They started with one house in 2004 and added a second a few years later, on three acres of beautiful, secure property.

Interviewed by SeniorsZen, Kathy Nelham, RN and Director of Highview Residences provided us with good suggestions to deal with a family member that is suffering with Alzeimer’s or dementia when comes the time to seek for a Specialized Care Home.

SZ - When do we realize it’s time to consider moving a family member with Alzheimer’s or other form dementia to a Specialized Care facility?

Kathy - The factors that tip the scale in a decision about timing for a move into care would include – safety, wellbeing and caregiver burden.   In terms of safety, it would be things like wandering away and getting lost or going somewhere inappropriate, not taking care with risky things like stoves, perhaps the living environment: stairs that can’t be navigated safely, up to the bathroom or down to the basement for laundry etc.  Wellbeing is hygiene, nutrition and medication.  They are not eating properly, not taking their medication as prescribed, not bathing frequently enough, changing and washing clothes.  The other factor is related to the primary care giver who can no longer carry the load  either due to the ongoing relentless strain or their own poor health – a hospitalization or diagnosis that will limit their capacity to continue to be the primary care giver.  Sometimes it is the death of that primary care giver.

SZ - How to better approach the subject with the loved one who carries the condition?

Kathy -To point out how specialized care would alleviate the above difficulties.  The loved one can go back to the relationship of being spouse or daughter or son or whatever.  They can stop being the person who has to coax and persuade someone to take a pill or take a bath.  They don’t have to be ‘on duty’ 24/7 and can restore rest and well being for themselves and have better energy for caring for their loved one. Staff in a care home can help them do what they want to do – the very best for their loved one.

SZ - How to make it a smoother transition?

Kathy -I’d like an easy answer to this question!  Change is more difficult for someone with dementia.  Sometimes it’s just riding out the adjustment.  We give excellent care, surround them with love and attention, get to know them and make them feel safe and welcomed.  That makes the new setting appealing and eases the transition.  Wherever possible we can help reinforce the family’s understanding of what would help with the transition:  an element of their normal routine – going out for lunch, a story about ‘why’ the move is necessary that helps rationalize the change – repairs to their home, care giver is going away, they need extra nursing care ‘to get stronger’ etc, familiar care givers.

 

Before a resident moves in, Highview staff meet at length with them or their family to learn as much as possible about them and make them feel comfortable and welcome. “We take an extensive history of the person’s interests and hobbies,”says Jean Grasby, director of administration. “Normally, when people come here they are not able to do everything they once did, but if we know what interested them, we can spontaneously create activities that are familiar to them and more likely to engage them.” By encouraging and supporting the individual needs of each resident they can experience a sense of accomplishment frequently. Visitors are welcome and encouraged to visit or enjoy a meal with our residents. It is common to see family members sitting in the garden with their loved one or inside relaxing together in the sitting room or porch.

For people with dementia and their families, Highview Residences represents an oasis of calm in what can sometimes be a confusing and unsettling world. Designed specifically for residents with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, Highview offers an unparalleled level of personal care. Residents live in one of two beautiful houses. Each house includes two cottages. In each cottage, 12 residents live in a comfortable and familiar setting.

During the day there is one staff member to 5 residents. “It is important to keep our ratio very low to provide the care that’s best for our residents,” says Grasby. “It is part of what distinguishes us and enables us to provide excellent care.” Our staff truly get to know each of the residents and are able to provide not only the physical care required, but the emotional supports needed to ensure everyone has the best day possible.

Many times, though, it is the caring relationships formed between the residents that help to ensure the home-like, family experience at Highview. Another distinguishing characteristic is the availability of private rooms for every resident, although couples can choose to share a room. Each room has its own ensuite bathroom which includes a barrier-free shower. Rooms are furnished with each resident’s belongings, allowing them to create their own special space that is based on their tastes and needs. However, furnishings are available if needed. The entire residence is smoke-free.

In keeping with the home-like atmosphere of the four cottages, the resident’s rooms do not have numbers on the doors, as in a hotel or apartment building. Instead, they are a blank canvas that residents often chose to decorate with wreathes and other personal touches, just as they may have done at their home in prior years.

All residents have access to a private, secure outside garden, with a circular walking path, seating areas and the refreshing sound of a fountain. “The design and features work together to create our relaxed, home atmosphere,” Grasby says. “Residents respond to this and it is something we work hard to create and maintain.” With that goal in mind, staff members do what is helpful to make residents comfortable. “If someone does not want to have breakfast first thing in the morning, Grasby says. “They can have something later on.”

Breakfast is on demand and made to order, as the residents make their way to the dining room. With nutrition in mind, delicious, home cooked meals are prepared each day by our chefs in both houses. The smell of freshly prepared food fills the dining room during the day and can be served in a resident’s room if he or she is unwell. Otherwise, residents eat together in a warm dining room atmosphere, an experience which is designed to provide a sense of warmth and familiarity - just like at home.

As much as Highview Residences is a nurturing home-like setting, security is always a priority. The buildings have been designed to keep residents safe, with staff present at all times, day and night. Since it opened at its present location more than a decade ago, Highview Residences has provided exceptional, loving care to many people. Working with residents that are living with dementia is a calling to our team. 

 

"The team continually provide supportive care and direction, reflecting the residents needs while engaging their strengths, abilities, and interests, both past and present. The staff take pride in caring for people at their most vulnerable, giving them a sense of home and dignity in a safe and loving environment.

 

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