Dementia Friendly Glenmeadow

Dementia Friendly Glenmeadow

December 20, 2018
Caregiver and elderly client

Note: Our blogs are always based on interviews with actual residents, staff, donors or other members of the Glenmeadow community. This blog is likewise based on fact, but we have changed the names of those we interviewed to protect the privacy of their families.

One of our staff members helps resident Renee keep rhythm in a drum circle, and another sorts Renee’s mail with her to discern what’s important and what can be recycled. Once a month, the leaders of our Caregivers Support Group help Renee’s daughter, Mary Anne, cope with the fact that her mother is living with vascular dementia.

These are some of the many ways in which we help people living with dementia and their families.

We have enhanced our support to provide meaningful care and education. We also have followed an industry trend in moving away from a designated dementia unit; we serve individuals like Renee—as well as couples, families, and caregivers—where they are, with the specific tools they need.

In addition, we train community companions to spend time with residents who are living with dementia, and we offer a monthly Memory Café—a social gathering for people living with dementia and their caregivers. We have also been a key partner in the Dementia Friendly Longmeadow initiative, developing programs and services that offer support and peace of mind.

“The more we can get people in the community to feel comfortable communicating and spending time with people living with dementia, the better-equipped they will be when they meet people living with the disease,” says Laura Lavoie, director of life enrichment.

Mary Anne appreciates the thorough attention her mother receives, as well as the advice she gets in the Caregivers Support Group. “I can help others, and they can help me,” she says. “To be able to talk and know they understand is helpful.”

A member of our other support group, Diane, understands. “To hear how other people in the same situation are dealing with it is helpful,” she says.

Diane began attending the Caregivers Support Group in the spring. “I felt it might be helpful to gather some information about dementia. I saw attending the group as more of an educational experience,” Diane says. “Now, I see it as more of a support group.”

Both groups are led by two of our staff members whose knowledge and personal experience allow them to offer different perspectives. Ruth Dickinson, our wellness director, cared for mother in her own home and shares her personal experience with the group. Emily Perkins, vice president of health and wellness, talks about how Glenmeadow can assist people living with dementia and their families and friends.

Diane notes that when a parent is living with dementia, the responsibility of being the parent’s main support often falls to one child. Those children can perhaps benefit most from the Caregivers Support Group, allowing them a safe space to share emotions.

“Some commiserate in our group on the toll being the main support takes,” she says. “It’s very stressful. There are a million decisions children have to make for their aging parents, and these things become even harder when a parent has dementia. In one moment, you don’t want to be their parent, and then you feel guilty for being upset with them.”

Diane’s mother also lives at Glenmeadow, and one thing Diane feels she gleans from the support group is that her mother’s care by our staff members is superlative, compared to what she hears from others in the group about their parents’ care.

“I realized how well off my mother is in Glenmeadow’s care,” she says. “The support groups have helped me feel more confident about the choices I made for her and helped me understand I’m on the right path.”

Our Caregivers Support Groups are held every first Tuesday of the month from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and every third Thursday from noon to 1 p.m. Memory Cafés are held every fourth Wednesday of the month from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

For more information, contact Laura Lavoie at 413-355-5905 or llavoie@glenmeadow.org.

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