Stimulate the senses to engage memory care residents

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Keith A. Myers
Keith A. Myers

As we continue to learn more about Alzheimer's disease and dementia, caregivers and assisted living facilities have been able to create increasingly sophisticated and tailored solutions to help improve the quality of life for residents.

The Memory Care Residences at MorseLife Health System, a nonprofit healthcare and residential services provider for seniors in South Florida, approach memory care by leveraging the benefits of sensory stimulation. MorseLife offers both music and art therapy and provides an open kitchen concept to try to capture the comforts of home while helping memory care residents remain encouraged and engaged throughout the day.

Music and art therapy

Both music and art can help trigger fond memories and provide creative outlets for us all, but they provide a renewed sense of joy and purpose for memory care residents in particular.

By equipping residents with their own iPods, MorseLife provides the opportunity for residents to bond with their loved ones and staff by creating personalized playlists together. Looking back at songs of years past to piece together a familiar soundtrack can help residents share favorite memories, and the resulting playlist can help invigorate daily activities and spark continued joy and peace for residents who may find it more difficult to connect with the outside world.

MorseLife also offers art programs, guiding seniors through watercolor creation and other activities to nurture continued creativity. Giving memory care residents a sense of accomplishment by allowing ownership of projects throughout their day is critical for their happiness.

Art humanizes the memory care residential environment and calms residents through creative personal expression. In particular, MorseLife's “Art After Dark” program caters to residents with Alzheimer's and dementia, who often experience “sundowning” — that is, greater confusion, agitation and anxiety later in the day and throughout the night. By scheduling art programs during those difficult evening hours, memory care facilities can help residents become less restless and instead focus on the joy of discovering or rediscovering their artistic talents.

Open-concept kitchen

Eating well is good for the heart, soul and mind. In fact, for the more than 5.5 million Americans who are living with Alzheimer's disease, food has been proven to “re-create moments of joy” that trigger memories and stimulate the appetite, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

To help resurface those precious memories, MorseLife developed an open-kitchen concept with its memory care residents in mind. The kitchen's residential design helps transport residents back in time to special moments with family and friends through familiar aromas while also providing unlimited access to supervised cooking facilities.

Cooking and baking often are among the first restricted tasks for memory care residents as their condition progresses, but MorseLife's around-the-clock supervision allows residents to continue experimenting with food creation whenever the mood strikes. The facilities also feature a range of tailored safety features, including automatic stove shut-off.

For those living with Alzheimer's, the world can seem chaotic and unfamiliar, but the smell of a delicious chicken dish or freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookie can bring peace and comfort to their day. The private chefs at MorseLife prepare fresh meals around the clock to fill the halls with those familiar, savory scents.

With a continued focus on sensory stimulation, more residents are able to reconnect with their past and the world around them through the enjoyment of familiar comforts.

Keith A. Myers is CEO of West Palm Beach, FL-based MorseLife Health System. In addition to memory care, the system offers independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, short-term rehabilitation, home healthcare and a Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly.

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