Memory Living at Chartwell: A Community-Based Approach to Dementia Care
If you have a loved one who is living with dementia, you may be exploring options to get them the support they need to live safely and with the quality of life they deserve. There are different support options available across Canada, including memory care services offered in retirement residences—but what you may not know is that these services are not always based on the same model of care.
The most popular model of care in memory care settings is clinical-based, with physical safety being of top-most priority; however, many experts agree that a community-based model of care is more beneficial for seniors living with dementia, as it also prioritizes social and emotional interaction and wellbeing. Rather than a focus on systems, processes and tasks, a community model of care promotes the ingredients to a fulfilling life worth living—intangible things like laughter, games, conversation and friendships. According to a Toronto Star article titled, “The Fix,” the community model of care has been shown to result in happier residents, fewer falls, diminished violence, lessened dependence on antipsychotic medication and lower staff turnover.
Chartwell offers a unique Memory Living program in several residences across the country based on the community model of care. Here’s how our unique approach can make a difference in your loved one’s daily life.
Seeing the person, not the disease
An important philosophy rooted in the community-based model of care is refraining from characterizing someone by their cognitive condition and instead learning who they are and were as individuals, as well as what their current experience with dementia is. That outlook allows us to create an environment where people are encouraged to actively join in everyday life and build relationships that lead to a sense of community.
To help each person live their best day, staff in Chartwell’s Memory Living Neighbourhoods will encourage and support each resident’s independence and success in every interaction they have. Allison Schindler, Director of Memory Living & Life Enrichment for Chartwell Retirement Residences, explains, “We do this by participating in aspects of their days with them, rather than for them. Whether it’s choosing what to wear for the day or what dessert to have with dinner, we’re making decisions alongside the person.”
The physical space of our Memory Living Neighbourhoods also lend to every resident’s independence and at-home feeling. These specially-designed environments make it easy for people to get around from one area of the Neighbourhood to the next, have soothing colours to reduce stress and also feature unique design cues to provide visual independence.
A unique relationship with staff
One thing that makes the staff in our Memory Living Neighbourhoods stand out is that they are all trained on Gentle Persuasive Approach (GPA) and Teepa Snow’s Positive Approach to Care. Teepa Snow is an Occupational Therapist and dementia education and care specialist who advocates for a therapeutic approach to memory care; one that fosters positive outcomes for both residents and staff, supportive environments and meaningful connection. As explained on her website, teepasnow.com, “As nurses, we are task oriented, but when we see people react with fear and agitation, we are learning to understand the deeper meaning behind the behaviour.” Our staff are therefore not trained to “manage or deal with behaviours,” but are encouraged to consider why someone may be expressing themselves in such a way and what they can do to bring them peace of mind. Snow points out, “Dementia does not rob someone of their dignity; it’s our reaction to them that does.”
Another key difference of our Memory Living program’s community-based model of care is the emphasis put on consistent staffing assignments. We have a group of staff solely dedicated to working in our Memory Living Neighbourhood so stronger bonds of trust and understanding can be achieved with residents. Our staff commit to getting to know each and every resident so they can form meaningful relationships and help them navigate each day with positivity—something that wouldn’t be possible without consistent staffing of trained, caring and collaborative people who view themselves as a cohesive team.
Our staff are also empowered to go to work to live in the Neighbourhood. Schindler explains what that means: “We don’t want our residents to feel like they are living in a workplace. A great example of ‘going to work to live’ is when I recently visited one of our Neighbourhoods and found a member of the care team sitting with a resident in the lounge. They had their feet up on the coffee table and were sharing a bowl of popcorn as they watched a Blue Jays game,” she continues. “It’s shared experiences and mutual relationships like those that will make an individual’s life better. We don’t want structured job routines; we want staff to have the flexibility to live all parts of the day with residents to support their happiness.”