Creating a Dementia Friendly Glenmeadow

Creating a Dementia Friendly Glenmeadow

June 11, 2019

If you walk through our halls on a Wednesday morning, you’re apt to hear music in varying genres, the jingles and beat of moraccas, tamborines, and drumsticks. Residents will be singing with abandon. They produce the sound of sheer joy as they take part in our new Music and Dance class.

“Residents can do whatever they want with no judgement,” explains Emily Perkins, vice president of health and wellness. “There are people standing and in wheelchairs, tapping their feet. One man comes alive. He uses drumsticks and has the biggest smile on his face. It’s very fun.”

Music and Dance is one of our new offerings for residents who are living with dementia, and Emily explains that the hope is to create one new program for each day of the week. So far, in addition to the dance class, we offer a drumming circle on the last Friday of the month and an art class on Monday afternoons.

These gatherings are in keeping with the commitment we made a year ago to enhance the services we provide to people living with dementia and their families. Behind that promise is the fact that Alzheimer’s and related disorders are becoming more prevalent. Emily says over 50 percent of our campus population is experiencing some degree of cognitive decline.

“We want to evolve as a community that meets the needs of our residents,” she says. “We see the changes in the people who have been living here for a long time and want to tailor programs around their needs. We are all saying, ‘How can we do this better?’”

Emily adds, “When a person chooses to live here, we want to support whatever needs may already exist and those that arise as time passes. We want everyone here to feel positivity and inclusion, as well as the uniqueness of individualized support.”

Our enhanced dementia focus is also in line with our commitment to wellness in general. “Our philosophy is to incorporate wellness into the daily lives of all who live here,” Emily says. “As part of our growth, we’re working toward a more holistic style of aging by offering more wellness programs like yoga, meditation, and exercise.”

Our desire to help also extends to the community. Once a month, we offer our popular Memory Café, which offers a unique activity—from yoga to journaling to drawing—for people living with dementia and their caregivers. Family members looking for support and information can also attend our monthly Caregivers Support Groups. (Visit our Events page for details on meeting dates and times.)

In December, Longmeadow was named a Dementia Friendly town, in part due to efforts we initiated with other community partners. We continue to offer educational workshops on dementia in the community, and we have been training staff as well.

Laura Lavoie, Glenmeadow’s director of Life Enrichment, is one of three Positive Approach to Care (PAC) trainers in Western Mass. She has been sharing her knowledge with staff members in six-hour sessions that offer them techniques for better approaching difficult personalities and situations.

“Instead of thinking, ‘This person is frustrating,’ a staff member can learn to recognize dementia, so they can instead think, ‘I understand this about you, and I can help,’” Emily explains. “It makes life easier for everyone—residents, family members, staff—and it makes the experience of working together more pleasant. People are really energized and inspired by this training.”

Emily says Laura has already trained half of our employee team. “We are striving to become the first—and potentially the only—life plan community in Western Mass with a fully trained staff,” she says. “All members of our team should have the knowledge and confidence to interact with and assist all residents, regardless of their cognitive level.”

If you would like to learn more about Glenmeadow’s offerings, please contact Torrie Dearborn at tdearborn@glenmeadow.org or 413-567-5547.

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