As the manager of Summer House at Villa Gardens, every day I have the opportunity to witness smiles of joy on the faces of our residents as they experience and discover the many life enrichment opportunities we offer. It’s why I do what I do. Yet, many family members seem to miss out on this experience. For some, there is a feeling of weariness and being disconnected that often accompanies anticipatory grief, since some have been on the dementia care journey for close to 20 years. For others it’s due to the perception of memory care as strictly biomedical.
In the early days when Summer House at Villa Gardens first opened, in spite of everything we aspired to create, I felt something was missing. I soon came to realize it was that essential connection with family members; that a vital part of the care-equation should be to offer them support, education, and additional community resources. Positive connections between family and care partners were what could fuel the success of a resident-centered care philosophy. These important connections could encourage positive and possibly transformational engagement opportunities for our residents. We needed a way to make that happen.
Bringing in community leaders in dementia care as guest speakers and hosting quarterly care conferences are just a few of the ways we make connections with families and offer support. This month, for example, our guest speaker from the USC Family Caregiver Support Center will be discussing self-care for family caregivers. We also wanted the ability to share the positive aspects of daily life with our residents’ families. By introducing the The Memory Kit app to our family members we have been able to share precious moments captured throughout the day through photos stored privately within the app. This kind of sharing allows us to celebrate everyone as a group, while also highlighting residents as individuals.
In an effort to continue to grow our family connections, we’ll soon be inviting our family members to participate in activities using It’s Never 2 Late (iN2L), a 70-inch interactive smartboard. By creating personalized “My Pages” for each resident, families can use iN2L to upload photos and videos to their loved one’s page that can then be viewed on the smartboard. Family members will also be invited to use the smartboards alongside residents to engage in residents’ favorite iN2L programs and activities.
Through the use of these innovative tools and a holistic approach to memory care, we’ve found that we’re not only able to offer stimulating activities customized to our resident needs, but that we can begin to bridge the gap between residents and care partners, residents and families, and care partners with each other as we work together to create a supportive and nurturing environment at Summer House at Villa Gardens.