Many senior living communities specialize in memory care – either as an entire community, or with dedicated neighborhoods within a larger community. While some inquiring families immediately see the benefit of such focus for their loved one who is on a journey with dementia; for many others, they may not see the benefit right away as their loved one may be earlier in the journey.
Regardless of where they are in their process, I’d like to share some tips how to convey the value of specialized memory care to inquiring loved ones.
The Value of Focus
Sometimes families fear that their loved one will deteriorate faster if they’re in a neighborhood of residents who are also on a journey with dementia. You have an opportunity to convey the value of expertise and the proactivity of a dedicated community or neighborhood focused on supporting residents with dementia to help ease those fears. Providing examples and anonymized resident stories can help them understand the benefits of a specialized memory care community.
Here are some examples:
- A resident living in their big, two bedroom apartment home in Assisted Living may be able to engage in activities but may be unable to initiate actually going to those activities – in essence, isolating themselves. Imagine instead a memory care community or neighborhood whose care teams are accustomed to inviting and involving residents in meaningful activities.
- A team of caregivers aware of differing dementia journeys who are able to come alongside an individual in a way that empowers them and keeps them engaged in the activities they’re able to conduct.
- A group of team members with additional dementia training who are able to watch for signs of changing symptoms that are uncommon within the dementia journey – catching reversible conditions like a urinary tract infection quickly.
Another opportunity is to communicate the specialized training and experience dedicated memory care communities or neighborhoods can provide for residents through all stages of dementia. Effectively communicating what residents go through and how you can help them on their journey will go a long way in easing families into the decision to choose senior living for their love done.
Some colleagues and I had the opportunity to participate in a Virtual Dementia Tour (VDT) at a Silverado community in Orchard Park. Silverado is an organization focused on supporting and empowering people on a journey with dementia, and they offer the VDT to families, professionals and their own care staff. The VDT was created by Second Wind Dreams and is intended to help caregivers and loved ones to experience some of the physical effects present in the dementia journey.
Regional Vice President of Sales for Silverado Nancy Convertito explains, “At Silverado, we understand how difficult this disease is … not just on the individual who has dementia, but also on the family. Virtual Dementia Tours can provide an unparalleled understanding of what it’s like to live with this life-changing condition. When a prospect or currently family member goes through Silverado’s Virtual Dementia Tour – it is truly life-changing.”
She continues, “We never fail to see a daughter walk out with sweet tears, or a husband exit shaking his head in disbelief. We often hear “I never knew mom was going through this”, “Wow, I had no idea”, and “After today, I know I just can’t take care of my husband at home anymore”. They’re starting to “get it” – understand what it’s really like to live as someone with dementia. And it’s at times like these that the prospect or family member needs us the most – to listen, to be the dementia expert, and to be a resource.”
Timing of the Visit
Family members who tour a memory care neighborhood or community might visit during quieter times – maybe right after a meal or when a number of residents are away on an outing or other activity. When possible, try to schedule tours to coincide with activities or mealtime which may better illustrate to a family how their loved one will benefit from your community. And if you’re touring with a family during a quieter time, be prepared to illustrate the more vibrant periods, whether reviewing a community photo album or community newsletter.
A Family in Denial
Families may have different experiences interacting with the person with dementia. Maybe an out-of-town adult child interacts with a perkier version of their Mom because she’s delighted to see them and more engaged than she is with the child who is in town and visits weekly.
There are some great discovery questions a sales director might ask a family member to focus their perception on clues of day-to-day activities:
- When you visit your Mom or Dad, could you tell me about what you see in their fridge and pantry?
- Describe your loved one’s home environment to me – are there piles of unopened bills, junk mail or newspapers?
- Tell me about your Dad’s dog – how is he caring for the dog, how does he walk her and keep up with her food and water bowls?
- I’d love to better understand how your Mom is preparing her meals – could you describe what you’ve seen?
- Have you recently ridden with your Mom – if so, could you tell me about that experience? I’m also curious about the condition of her vehicle – are there dings or dents on the car and / or the garage?
- How does your Dad engage in his favorite hobbies – whether that’s his longtime social commitments, or purposeful activities throughout the day in his home?
Within this approach of asking great discovery questions, you are often able to help a family uncover the reality and come to the answer themselves.
A Treasure for Caregivers
I think one of the greatest gifts offered by memory care communities or neighborhoods is that loved ones are free to engage exclusively in meaningful ways with the individual with dementia. No longer does a spouse or adult child have to do it all – they can once again focus on their relationship, even throughout the dementia journey. A team of specially trained memory care caregivers, nurses and activities team members can make all the difference – for the individual with dementia, as well as their loved ones.
Please share other best practices you’ve uncovered in conveying the benefits of memory care to family members.