Updated: Jul 18
Your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia and is now experiencing a severe decline in cognition. They cannot live at home and their needs are far more than you can provide. It’s past time to start thinking about assisted living with residences that specialize in ‘memory care.’
There are many things to look at when considering senior living such as the room layouts, the food, and the staff-to-resident ratio. However, the key to a good memory care residence is community life or the activities. As a recreational therapist and Community Life Coordinator, I have experience working in a memory care community and working with seniors diagnosed with dementia. As a Community Life Coordinator, I considered my role as the bridge between the staff, residents, and their families. I worked to incorporate the interests of the residents into the community life activities to support the mind, body, and spirit of each resident. Group activities are important because they help ensure community; whereas individual offerings ensure that each resident’s own specific needs are being met. A wonderful offering that can be given in a group setting or an individual one is music. There is a plethora of research about the healing properties of music, especially for those with dementia. At the senior living community where I worked at, there was a popular offering called Music with Lior. During this offering, Lior would provide the residents with musical instruments so that they could sing and play along with him. This was also one of my favorite activities because I was able to see so many residents become engaged in an activity that brought out their personality and former selves.
Outside of “Music with Lior” an individual offering of music was through Music and Memory. This program supports individual engagement with music by talking with the resident’s family about meaningful songs in a person’s life and putting them into a playlist on an iPod for the resident. By making a playlist based on their favorite songs, a resident can tap into memories not lost to dementia and can bring listeners back to life, enabling them to feel like themselves again, to converse, socialize, and stay present. It’s highly recommended when moving a loved one into a memory care residence to ensure that music is part of the community life.
An important note to remember is that dementia is a difficult process and it impacts everyone differently. Many people with dementia experience drastic changes in personality. I have seen a man who was an anxious hoarder turn calm and minimalist and a woman who was prudent and pious become loud-mouthed and spiteful. That is why it’s so important for the community staff to not only know who that person used to be but also understand and support the person in front of them. Being the one who that person needs at the moment is everything - whether you are someone’s daughter or their uncle you validate their current feelings and understanding of the world. When someone has dementia, it’s important to remember Maya Angelou’s words, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
If you are looking for support around caring for a loved one with dementia, reach out to Mellie. Contact Mellie by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: at 415-839-9139, or visit our website at Mellie.com.