By David Heitz
Sandy Fairley doesn’t mince words when asked how she goes about hiring for her assisted living and memory care communities at Brookdale Hattiesburg.
“We hire by qualification and by our heart. We try to make a connection with our applicants to determine if this type of environment is a good match. We also allow our residents to have some input, as this is their home and they should feel confident in the associates who are charged with their care.”
For those who ever have had a loved one in a senior care community, Fairley immediately hits on two triggers for families who want to visit: the engagement of the residents and their happiness in the community. Walk in and enjoy a meal, and observe residents.
Fairley knows what matters. She has been with Brookdale, the largest senior living corporation in the nation, with 1,200 properties, for several years. She has worked in both corporate positions as well as at the community level, which she does today, as executive director of both the assisted living and memory care properties in Hattiesburg.
She said her office door is always open and residents can come in and chat. She also is used to giving tours to frazzled family members who have to find “a place” for mom or dad and don’t know where or how to begin.
At Brookdale Hattiesburg, the environment is the sort of southern setting and décor that most of its residents have been accustomed to.
Our philosophy is “CORE”— care over real estate. We pride ourselves in our care for our residents. We treat each one as we would our own family.
Care before curb appeal: know the difference
In our assisted living community, which offers 83 units, Brookdale Hattiesburg has a wide variety of residents with varying abilities. Some remain very active and may have gone into assisted living seeking socialization and companionship, while others need assistance with the activities of daily living. Our residents can remain here throughout their lives as long as we can provide the care they require and they meet the regulations for assisted living in Mississippi.
As a corporation, Brookdale is known for offering services across the continuum: from home care to skilled nursing and, finally, hospice.
Home care and hospice are not offered in Hattiesburg, however we do offer a third-party therapy group for physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Brookdale Hattiesburg offers assisted living and the area’s first freestanding memory care community.
“Often times, residents newly diagnosed with dementia do not necessarily need to live in memory care right away,” Fairley said. The clinical staff can do an assessment and determine which community they are most appropriately suited for. We design an individual care plan for each resident to serve their individual needs and ensure we meet them for each resident, and protect their dignity while doing so.
Comprehensive, community-based memory care
What Brookdale does offer is comprehensive memory care. Unlike the assisted living community, which offers 12 hours of a licensed nurse on duty, the memory community has a nurse around the clock. Also, the price is all-inclusive.
Brookdale calls its corporate memory care program “Clare Bridge.”
There is extensive, hands-on Clare Bridge training that is administered by trainers who monitor and observe the care associates routinely to ensure they are proficient and offer additional assistance and training as indicated.
“We show them, for example, how to properly assist people with dementia dine by having them role play,” Fairley said of employee training at memory care. “These people sometimes don’t remember that after they put the food on their fork, next it goes in their mouth. We train our staff to help people do things for themselves until they absolutely can’t anymore.”
Beyond the rigorous Clare Bridge program, Fairley said Brookdale’s partnerships with William Carey University and the University of Southern Mississippi keep the community infused with the latest in elder care best practices. We partner with the local universities to provide internships for their students who are studying in a variety of health care fields.
The memory care community is overseen by Cindy Headley, associate executive director. Fairley said Headley has degrees in gerontology and psychology.
“That’s what sets us apart,” Fairley said. “We have exclusive staffing for memory care who do not work in the assisted living and who do not get pulled wherever staff is short.”
Step-up to memory care offers smoother transition
“You have to have a diagnosis of dementia in Mississippi to live in the memory care community,” Fairley said. The memory care community has 30 units with 50 beds total.
Undoubtedly, that makes Brookdale Senior Living Inc. attractive for residents who may have a dementia diagnosis, but who are still are high functioning. When a person with memory care moves, it can be extremely traumatic.
For that very reason, both communities at Brookdale appear to be almost identical in layout and décor. It makes it easier when a resident has to move from one to the other.
“You can live in our assisted living with a dementia diagnosis,” Fairley said. “You can still go to activities and participate in monthly ‘Brookdale Celebrates’ themed events.” We also provide monthly casino visits, weekly lunch bunch outings, and have many entertainers who visit our community on a scheduled calendar of events.
Residents who have dementia can remain in assisted living as long as their dignity and safety is not compromised. When that time comes, Brookdale will ask families to move their loved one to memory care.
More than just standard memory care
Brookdale’s assisted living and memory care communities are private pay, which means they do not accept Medicare or Medicaid.
When a resident is admitted to memory care, they go through what Brookdale corporate calls a “Life Stories” program. A memory care program director sits down with the family and learns about the resident. A life-story shadow box is on the wall at each resident apartment with their story and photos. They help our staff and volunteers identify with the resident and communicate easier by knowing a little more about them as they were before their illness.
“The Clare Bridge concept was created over 30 years ago and has evolved by continually embracing the latest research in dementia care, coupled with the experience of caring for thousands of people with dementia and their families,” Brookdale boasts on its website.
Essentially, employees are taught to tailor their interaction to “join their journey” with each resident based on their different personalities, just as they would their own family members. “Knowing and being present in relationships with our residents gives us a strong foundation to anticipate any unmet needs and lessen behavioral symptoms,” Brookdale explains of its Clare Bridge program.
There is even a program called “Crossings” for residents who may come in with early-onset dementia.
“Some studies have shown that persons with early stage dementia may even be at higher risk of developing depression,” Brookdale explains on its website. “Issues such as these may be more likely to develop when the person with dementia lives amongst peers who are cognitively well and independent.”
Regular exercise of the mind and body, from reading the daily newspaper headlines aloud to dancing to old tunes, keeps Brookdale residents feeling younger, longer.
“It’s the staff that makes a building successful”
Assisted living and memory care costs considerably less than a nursing home. Fairley said she recently adjusted prices to be more competitive in the market.
For the active senior, Brookdale often is a breath of fresh air after years of boredom. Our community transportation can take residents to the University of Southern Mississippi, where they can participate in OLLIE classes, five days a week.
There also is the Wednesday Lunch Bunch, where residents can choose a local restaurant to try. Recently, they chose Patio 44. “It’s wherever they want to go,” Fairley said.
The outings keep people connected to the Hattiesburg area beyond Brookdale’s walls. Staying active in the community helps make a new home still feel like your old home.
“Brookdale’s a name, but it’s the staff that makes this building successful,” Fairley said.
We couldn’t be more proud to be here in Hattiesburg and provide care for the seniors of the Pine Belt. We invite everyone to come join us for a hearty meal and experience our southern hospitality. Schedule a tour of our community and let us help you design a plan for you or your loved one’s future needs.
For more information about Brookdale Assisted Living and Memory Care, call (601) 271-2177.
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