The Power of Creative Design for Risk Management in Memory Care Communities

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can be life-changing news and often evokes many emotions in the person with the disease and those close to them. The transition to a community or memory care unit can promote a better quality of life, but can still be an abrupt and anxiety-provoking time for everyone involved.

With creative design and intentional construction, that doesn’t have to be the case. Interactive models of memory care prioritize the dignity and purpose of the resident, but can also help mitigate risk to employees, creating a safer environment for all.

As a former nurse turned clinical risk management senior consultant and administrator of a memory care center, we have seen the impact that the layout and design of the community or unit can have on the residents. Senior residences and especially nursing homes are no longer the clinical, dull facilities of the past. They are dynamic and caring spaces where residents should be proud to live and loved ones should be delighted to visit. A few thoughtful, cost-effective upgrades can go a long way in transforming a community or memory care unit – and there are examples demonstrating their transformative power.

For example, unique life skills stations designed in a 10,000 square foot “memory support neighborhood” allow residents to keep their minds active in the Cindy Springs memory care neighborhood in the Masonic Village of Burlington. , a life plan community in New Jersey. In this type of model, designers created living and destination stations that mimicked aspects of home and community to create meaningful engagement for residents, which helped them retain their skills and talents. Just steps down the neighborhood hallway, residents can choose between taking a “trip” to the post office to run errands, fold laundry, pick flowers or build with safety tools in a workshop. These seemingly mundane activities go a long way towards making residents feel connected to themselves, even if they aren’t able to do them as independently as they once could.

Visual-spatial and tactile design elements provide interactive environments, such as an office space or nursery, that remind residents of their past. This allows families to interact with their loved one in a comfortable and relaxed setting while sharing a task. Stations also help foster a sense of community with other residents, creating spaces to interact with one another. The aim is to spark long-term memories, with each station deliberately designed to spark thought, recreate moments of happiness and help caregivers learn more about each resident.

It also protects the care team by managing the conditions in which residents may inadvertently put themselves or others at risk. If a resident begins to behave in a certain way, they can be guided quickly, safely and easily to another station, away from other residents, so they can maintain brain stimulation while still having the space they need. to ground and calm down.

Boredom and loneliness can also trigger certain behaviors, but the variety of life skill stations ensures that there are always multiple areas and activities to stay engaged throughout the day. This ultimately reduces the risk of agitation, falls, fighting and running away, which promotes a safer work environment for the care team, always a top priority for any memory care center administrator.

The 14-room ward is intentionally small for now, but it offers a glimpse into the future of communities and memory care units. At Cindy Springs, we’ve seen benefits to the resident experience and how intentional design supports caregivers’ ability to provide quality care while also protecting their safety.

Dignity-centered — for everybody – does not need to require a massive overhaul or facelift of facilities. It’s about looking for actionable areas of improvement that have an impact – one life skill station at a time.

Bette M. McNee, BSN, RN, NHA, is Senior Clinical Risk Management Consultant at Graham Company.

Cindy Shemansky is Deputy Executive Director and Administrator of Masonic Village in Burlington.

The opinions expressed in each McKnight Senior Residence guest column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight Senior Residence.

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Helen J. Jimenez