An Illinois assisted living and memory care community will be the first senior living community in the United States to implement a dementia care program from Australia, its parent company has announced.

Chicago-based Pathway to Living’s Aspired Living of Westmont, a 107-unit community scheduled to open soon in Westmont, IL, will provide care for residents using the 10-year-old Spark of Life philosophy.

The program, from Dementia Care International, was designed to reverse the symptoms of dementia through a process called rementia, by focusing on the social, emotional and spiritual well-being of memory care residents as well as their physical needs.

“New developments in neuroscience show that the brain has a potential to heal itself. The brain is able to compensate for lost function by activating, connecting and growing new neurons through repetitive practice and new experiences,” Helen Brown, director of Pathway’s existing A Knew Day memory care program, told McKnight’s Senior Living. Spark of Life will be part of A Knew Day.

“It is amazing to see rementia happen by creating an environment of focused attention of unconditional love and belief in a person’s abilities,” she added. “This allows for the reigniting of a person’s spirit and restoration of dormant abilities. A person may speak after not speaking for a year or engage in full conversation after only using words and gestures. The ‘spark’ is reignited.”

Spark of Life was developed under the guidance of Dementia Care International founder Jane Verity, who has a background in Tom Kitwood’s person-centered care and the Eden Alternative. Brown said Pathway first became aware of the program when employees heard Verity speak about it at a conference. “[We] were impressed with the outcomes of the program,” she said.

Beyond A Knew Day and other memory care approaches, Brown said, Spark of LIfe “teaches us to think about our actions and reactions to people living with dementia, connecting heart to heart and soul to soul.”

To become certified master practitioners of Spark of Life, members of the Pathway team traveled to Australia to complete a three-week course, a requirement before program implementation.

Pathway now has two master practitioners, under which Aspired Living of Westmont will work toward becoming one of the country’s first Spark of Life Centers of Excellence, a designation that signifies full adherence to and success with the program. The two-year process toward obtaining the designation involves submitting quarterly reports that quantitatively show the effectiveness of care provided and willingness of the community to go beyond minimum standards to meet the emotional needs of residents.

Brown said Pathway has rolled out some of the concepts of Spark of Life at the 29 other senior living communities it operates in four states: Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“To fully roll out the program, you have to have a master practitioner on site,” she said.

According to Dementia Care International’s website, the program also is offered in the United States by the TAAWA Energy Healing Center in Denver, which serves Native Americans through presentations, workshops, support groups and consulting services. The center also is aiming to become a Spark of Life Center of Excellence.

Altogether, Spark of Life is used in 10 countries on five continents, is recognized by the Global Ageing Network (formerly the International Association of Homes and Services for the Aging) as a model of innovation and excellence, and also has been endorsed as a recommended best practice by both the Wisconsin Adult Day Services Association and the Wisconsin Office of Quality Assurance, according to Pathway.