It might be weighing heavily on your mind or just a passing thought… What kind of care community do you envision your loved one living in? Every person deserves to spend their lives engaging and thriving!
Take a moment to relax and imagine a place like this…
The day is bright and sunny and the breeze is cool against your skin…
The doors of the care community silently open. You hesitate – this is a visit you’ve put off because you didn’t want to see your family member in a “nursing home”. You enter braced for something unpleasant.
The foyer is bright and welcoming, and the air is filled with the aroma of baking sugar cookies. In front of you is a simple, easy-to-read sign welcoming you to the community. As you look around there is order and a feeling of openness. This doesn’t look like a typical nursing home, there are no carts, stands, or mechanical lifts.
This is your first time visiting this community, so you feel a little anxious and disoriented. You look around for someone to help you. As your eyes move through this open area you see beautiful bright décor on the walls and a large print sign. You see a sign for the household you are looking for and your anxiety melts away. In fact, when you see the label and you look in the direction you are going, you see large and tasteful wall art that symbolizes the name of the area. You are going to Symphony House. The wall art shows musical notes – you think to yourself… that makes sense.
You begin walking. As you move along, you notice a few older adults and care staff paired and sitting at tables working on activities. Each person is engrossed in what they are doing and the care staff is observing… yep, just observing, while the older adult works through the activity independently. Hmmm… kind of unusual. There is nobody in front of the TV or just sitting – in fact, the TV isn’t even on. As you continue your walk, you pass the living area. The fireplace is on and, like the other areas, it is bright and very homey. Along the wall next to the fireplace are shelves that are angled slightly downward. On them are books, wooden activities, and other “work kits” for the older adults. They can come and get them as they desire – all within easy reach and clearly visible.
Then you notice that there are so many windows and natural light. You can’t help but feel happy, not to mention the memories that the sugar cookie aroma brings.
Off of the living space is a sunny alcove. You decide to take a look inside. The room has large windows and a couple of tables spaced wide enough apart so the older adults can easily get through. As with the other areas, everything is organized, bright and welcoming. There are a few elders working together on activities and a few more deeply engaged in activities of interest. This space feels alive with energy, almost like a hum moves through the room. Near the window is a wheeled cart with a lightweight brightly colored watering can, healthy plants and a sign that says, “Please water the flowers”. There is an elder deadheading the old flowers. You think, “These plants look better than the ones I have at home!”
You leave the alcove, with a sense of calm, and head toward your loved one’s living area. What was the name of it again? Oh yes, Symphony… with the musical notes.
Along the way you see a few community elders and care staff. Interestingly, they all say “hello”. The staff graciously ask you if they can help you find where you’re going. You let them know you are on the right path. But what you notice aside from their courtesy is they all are wearing easy-to-read name tags on their left chest. Funny, but it’s somehow comforting to know their names.
Finally, you reach your destination. You know you’ve arrived at the right place because even from a distance, you see something that belongs to the person you are visiting; in a shadow box outside the door. You smile because the displayed item was really special. You remember the joy of the story behind it. Before you knock on the door, you stop and take a closer look at the other mementoes inside the box. All those special things tell the story of your loved one.
As you look around, you understand why your loved one wanted to “be” in this place. Heck, you want to be in this place! So bright and welcoming, so much to do. A comfortable and personal feel while being orderly and having so many activities available to the community dwellers.
The visit that you thought was going to be uncomfortable, was just the opposite. You smile and knock on the door.
This type of elder community is real. It is based on the concepts of Montessori for Aging and Dementia. People and care communities across the world are learning and understanding that an engaging and thriving life is possible for elders. Your loved ones still “Can Do” a large variety of activities and have skills that may be hidden by their disease. Help them engage and thrive!
Ready to make a difference and learn how to change elder care? Enroll in our Montessori course here: Montessori for Aging and Dementia – Dementia Care Training & Education