Cedars renovates memory carePublished 10:09am Friday, June 21, 2013
For The Cedars of Austin, renovating its memory care housing to include 13 new memory care apartments was an obvious choice.
“In other communities, there are no options for memory care,” said Lisa Nelson, The Cedars’ director of marketing. “The need has really surpassed the availability.”
The Cedars of Austin will celebrate the completion of its $125,000 remodel from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Festivities begin with music by Chris Von Arc at 11 a.m., followed by Peter Jacobs and Sons at 1 p.m. Chef Jack’s cooking show favorites will follow. The Cedars staff will offer tours of the renovated area and provide more information about what the Cedars offers. The public is invited.
Workers put finishing touches on the remodeling project this week, which turned independent living space into memory care apartments and increased the total memory care space to 36 apartments spread across three floors. Memory care housing is geared toward people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, and is short in supply in nearby cities like Albert Lea and Rochester, Nelson said.
The Cedars’ memory care area mostly consists of one-person studio rooms with individual bathrooms in each, but there are also three two-person suites available.
The rooms are grouped together into square “neighborhoods” of 13 people, complete with common areas the neighbors share for group interactions.
“We do a lot of activities with them,” said Cathy Ehley, director of memory care.
As the director of memory care, Ehley gave a lot of feedback on the design of the remodeled area. One of the priorities to give the memory care space a warm, welcoming vibe instead of an institutional appearance.
“It feels like home,” Nelson said.
To that end, Ehley encourages families to bring along any items to which their memory care resident feels a strong attachment. Whether the objects remind them of their love for hunting or playing chess with friends, having them in the apartment lets residents personalize their space.
“Everybody with dementia is different,” Ehley said, adding The Cedars tries to make the move smooth for new residents entering memory care living.
There are about eight “lifestyle stations” scattered about the memory care area. Each is themed to highlight a slice of life residents can use to reminisce on settings from earlier in their lives. For example, an old-fashioned office setup lets residents feel like they are back at work, while a garage settling provides tools to work with. The stations stimulate long-term memory, which is the last thing Alzheimer’s patients lose, Ehley said.
“Everything they see is from their era,” Nelson said.
The Cedars’ “Joining My Journey” program works along similar lines. Ehley learns from the families what residents like or dislike, and use those subjects to help stimulate the brain through activities and socializing. It also gives her a chance to better acquaint herself with the residents in memory care, and get more one-on-one interaction.
Each neighborhood has its own dining room, living room and other communal spaces.
“It’s like one big happy family,” Ehley said. “We have seen a need for that type of setting.”
Among the renovations is a customized spa. Many people with dementia are uncomfortable around water, Ehley said, and the spa helps keep bathing a calmer experience.
“We want it to be tranquil,” she said.
The furniture in the remodeled area is made specifically for ease of use. Microbial material allows staff to easily clean spills or messes off the furniture, and the cushions prevent a person from sinking down in the seat. That way, residents can get up from a chair more easily.
The renovation’s construction started in February. One of the biggest challenges proved to be with the sprinkler system, Nelson said, which needs to cover every part of the memory care section both for compliance as well as resident safety in the event of a fire. An older brick building made it more difficult to adjust the placement of the sprinkler lines.
The door systems, which have electronic locks for security, also took a bit of work. They had to be reset several times as they were configured for memory care usage instead of independent living.
Residents started moving in to the renovated memory care area toward the end of May, and most of the spaces are now filled.
Nelson said she looks forward to meeting people during the grand opening and giving more information about what The Cedars offers. The informal setting will be ideal for people just looking to find out more.
“It allows people to come up and talk to us,” Nelson said.