When a loved one shows signs of dementia, often the spouse or a child steps in as a caretaker or helper. While it might seem a natural fit, taking care of a loved one takes a toll on everyone involved. Above all, it can change the nature of a relationship between spouses or between a parent and child.
Weatherly Inn seeks to change that with what they call "restorative memory care"—a unique dementia care approach aimed at restoring relationships between family members, as well as a dementia patient’s sense of self. This innovative approach sets Weatherly Inn apart from many memory care providers.
“We’re trying to focus on active memory care, or what we call restorative memory care, which minimizes the impact of dementia on the daily lives of our residents,” says Brandon Beebe, Marketing Director at Weatherly Inn. “You can’t reverse the progress of dementia diseases, but you can improve the quality of daily life of those who suffer from Alzheimer’s and other dementia diseases with a holistic, consistent, and daily care regimen. We are dedicated to restoring meaningful relationships and the quality of life for each of our residents.”
The restorative process is multifaceted. First, it’s about relieving the responsibilities of family members so that they can be the spouse, or be the daughter, or be the son. But it goes beyond that as well.
“We want to restore back to the individual a sense of self with something called reminiscence therapy,” says Beebe. “We try to surround them with memories. With dementia, the newest memories go first. We try to surround them with the things that are most familiar to them from far back.”
The ways Weatherly Inn does that are creative. In their Kent facility, they have Main Street—a space decked out to look like an old downtown area, complete with a barber shop residents can walk right into and even a fully restored 1948 Dodge sedan they can sit in. It’s meant to feel like something they experienced as children. For those in early stages of dementia, the setup is simply nostalgic. For those in later stages, it feels familiar and safe. In Tacoma and Kent both, there are always standards playing in the hallways, antiques and older movies are the usual fare (although, that doesn’t mean newer movies aren’t offered if a resident has a taste for action flicks or romantic comedies).
The idea behind surrounding memory care residents with nostalgia lies in the way dementia works. Newer memories are the first to go. Older memories linger longer.
“It gives them a sense of I’m in the right place, I’m okay versus I’m in a nursing home or a hospital and I shouldn’t be here. It restores their sense of self, reduces anxiety, reduces depression and it gives them a sense of orientation—that they’re not in the wrong place,” adds Beebe.
Weatherly Inn offers independent living and assisted living along with memory care. Overall, the family-owned company has made a commitment to deliver the highest standard of care in a homelike setting. In contrast, many memory care facilities settle for a nursing home environment. However, this is not the case at Weatherly Inn. While their memory care wing is safe and secure so residents cannot wander out, the facilities feel far from a nursing home atmosphere, with antiques and lovely decor around every corner. Because Weatherly Inn is a family-owned and private company, they are not beholden to stockholders or making a certain amount of profit each quarter, and it shows. The Bunn family that has owned the business for three generations re-invests so much back into the Tacoma and Kent facilities in every way they can, from delicious food in the dining area, to decor, to a rich activities schedule for all residents.
And the daily life of residents reflects that same quality of care including daily exercise, creative activities, live musical entertainment, companion animal therapy, and so much more. Some memory care patients recently even got to leave the Tacoma building to go to a pool on the opposite side of town—no small undertaking, but the staff is dedicated to making sure that all residents have the same standard of living.
Another aspect of having independent living, assisted living and memory care all within the same building is that Weatherly Inn serves as a perfect place for spouses.
“We have quite a few folks where one is in independent living and another is in memory care, but it’s easy for them to spend time together every day, they can eat together, they can go for walks,” says Beebe. “We also do slow transitions, so if someone has early onset dementia, we can move them in as a couple and we can gradually transition someone to the memory care area. Not a lot of places do that.”
Above all, Weatherly Inn seeks to customize solutions for individuals and families. There is even event space for families to come and visit and hold family happenings right at Weatherly Inn. They also have companion rooms if kids or other family members are visiting from out of town and need a place to stay close by.
However, it’s often not the amenities or activities that a family thinks of when a loved one begins to show signs of memory loss. It’s often simply how to take care of their loved one and when it’s time to transition to a memory care facility. When it is time, those initial conversations and steps can be daunting–and Weatherly Inn can help with that, too.
“There are three major barriers to making the transition from independent living into some kind of retirement senior living,” says Beebe. “The first is having the conversation, and for the person to realize that living on their own either financially or for health or safety reasons isn’t the best choice. As you can imagine, there are helpful ways to go about that and there are unhelpful ways. Having someone who isn’t part of your family, and isn’t a part of your family dynamic, to help guide that conversation can be really helpful.”
Weatherly Inn has a caring staff who can do just that, including senior advisors and a professional chaplain. To start the conversation, the family or caregiver can contact Weatherly Inn to learn more about what their options might be. If it seems like a good fit, the next step is that Weatherly Inn will send out one of their nursing directors to assess the health and stage of dementia of the person.
“We have a nursing director who specializes in memory care,” explains Beebe. “She spends time face to face with the family to figure out where they’re at. Normally a person with dementia has a doctor working with them, but if not, we really try to help them understand what their medical needs are. We can assess whether they need to move into a memory care setting or whether they can begin in assisted living.”
by Kristin Kendle, editor South Sound Talk