Prestige Care offers memorable service to residents with dementia

Dementia toolkits aim to help memory care residents in Caldwell
Posted at 4:05 PM, Jan 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-24 18:05:36-05

CALDWELL, Idaho — The pandemic added another layer of challenges to people with dementia, inspiring a team of assisted living staff to make DIY tool kits that stimulate the senses.

Dementia is a type of cognitive impairment that impacts the ability to think, remember or make decisions. Illnesses that fall under the dementia umbrella include Alzheimer's, Lewy body, Frontotemporal and Vascular dementia.

Prestige Assisted Living at Autumn Wind in Caldwell is home to 26 memory care residents. Product Manager Angie Frantz said more are expected to move in as the community’s memory care capacity expands on Wednesday.

"There are possibly 75 to 100 types of dementia now, and we see some unique aspects of each type of dementia," she said. "We want to be aware of the different changes in each of those individuals that we serve."

When COVID-19 hit Idaho in March 2020, assisted living community residents — including those with dementia — were cut off from their everyday lives and families.

"Our memory care communities have really gone through a lot during the pandemic," Frantz said. "With memory care, it's hard to have those kinds of lockdowns."

To help care for those residents, Prestige Assisted Living created DIY tool kits as part of their "Expressions Memory Care" program. Frantz said each kit comes with special gloves, swimming goggles, slippers, headphones and radios that attempt to simulate the senses of dementia residents for caregivers and families. The box also includes a handout explaining to users how the brain changes and what to anticipate when caring for a memory care resident.

"Dementia and Alzheimer's affects all different aspects of a person, whether it's their vision, their hearing, their touch, (or) the way they walk," she said.

Frantz said the goggles aim to help caregivers understand how residents can lose their peripheral vision and see colors change. When a resident loses their peripheral awareness, their sight is like "tunnel vision," and the black-edged lenses show caregivers how residents can experience blurred vision, she said.

Colors are also of concern.

"We serve our food on colored plates so that they can see the food better because we found that they have difficulty seeing white," Frantz said. "Our uniforms for our staff are polo shirts in different colors, instead of white. Because if they see a white shirt, they might see a floating head."

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The kits are beneficial for both staff and visiting families, she said.

"Sometimes our families are the hardest to help understand what dementia is and how it affects their loved one," Frantz said. "We want to make sure that we can help them understand as well."

Since launching the tool kits last year, Prestige Assisted Living has distributed them throughout all their communities in seven Western states.

"We really work to meet the needs of our residents every day, trying to be creative in new ways and finding new ways to engage them and provide for them," Frantz said. "Just being able to learn every day, new ways to engage and make sure that they have a great day."

Prestige Assisted Living also recommends that families in — and out — of the facilities create a "My Life Story" for aging family members. The story is a portfolio of family history, habits, favorite meals, occupation, and other identifying characteristics.

"Most of our residents aren't in the present. They're in the past," she said. "We want to embrace the memories that they do have and be able to talk to them about it and involve them in activities that include those types of things."