By Pam McKee Kelly, LPC, NHA, Bedford Alzheimer’s Care Center
It seems today that “old” is new. Everywhere you look, you see items marketed as “vintage” and “retro.” And who doesn’t like going into an antique store only to discover an item similar to one that was used by your grandmother. We all enjoy looking at things that are familiar to us and that are now considered rare or valuable. Time can enhance or depreciate an item. It seems that if something has been around long enough to be depreciated into nothing then it will soon soar to the level of “collectable” and rare.
To take an older item and give it new purpose or meaning is very satisfying. To utilize something that was once left untouched and forgotten can bring great joy to the one who is restoring the item.
A New Purpose
Currently at Bedford Alzheimer’s Care Center we are revitalizing Warren Hall, which previously held residents during the 1960s to 2007. If you are from the area, you may remember the many names this building had. It was known as Happy Acres and Green Forest Nursing Centers, Conva-Rest Warren Hall and Conva-Rest Monroe Hall; then it was combined to create Conva-Rest Northgate. Lastly, it was separated once again into Warren Hall and Monroe Hall.
Warren Hall had its last resident in 2007. Since then, Warren Hall has sat empty and quiet. It is not what you would call “pretty” or inviting at first glance. It actually looks abandoned and pushed to the side. However, inside it houses various storage areas, a maintenance department, and many, many memories. It has long halls and wide doorways, an overgrown courtyard and patio area, some lovely crepe myrtles and a deep, rich history of caring for those who could no longer care for themselves.
Today, this building is not sitting quiet and empty anymore. For the past several months, it has been filled with construction workers, electricians, plumbers, and brick masons. The noises are loud and sometimes very interesting as jackhammers, drills, and concrete trucks come to life every morning. It is beginning to look very inviting and I can assure you that it will be beautiful upon completion. It is a metamorphosis in motion.
We are taking something old that had a previous function and giving it new life. We are taking a building that once housed 120 residents and creating brand new, state-of-the-art, private rooms for 60 precious older adults who struggle with memory loss. We are re-purposing and re-vitalizing. From the very foundation to the rafters, we are re-inventing this building. We will continue with the small intimate setting of our current facility by incorporating the neighborhood concept into our new home.
Through our experiences and the valued opinions of Alzheimer’s experts, we have learned that a small, quiet, routine environment is the best setting for someone suffering with memory loss. Having the same consistent caregivers involved in day-to-day activities is also another key to success. Our goal is to make sure that our residents receive quality, individualized care in a home-like setting surrounded by people who know them, know their families, know their preferences, and know their history.
In our new, larger facility there will be three separate neighborhoods that will each care for 20 persons. There will be a country kitchen atmosphere in each neighborhood. By de-centralizing the dining department, we can assure that the food preferences of our resident’s are honored. We have also learned that ARD affects the spatial ability of the reasoning. For example, it is not uncommon for an Alzheimer’s person to complete a full sit-down meal, and then ask when they can eat because they believe they haven’t eaten all day.
Residents will enjoy numerous outside activity areas. These will be spaces that are made available to residents who desire to be outside. Many of our residents enjoy sitting outside in the sunshine or filling the bird feeders. They will now have three separate areas to enjoy time out of the building. It has also been proven that time spent outside is healthy in maintaining day and night routines and help with sleep regulation.
We will decentralize the nursing stations. Yes, we will have nursing areas but the days of finding a nurse “behind the desk” are probably over. Our goal is to have all of the staff interspersed with the residents. We will be working in “their” home; they will not be residents in our “facility.” We will have even more opportunities to sit and visit and “revitalize” their purpose.
Revitalize People Too
Actually, there is not much difference in revitalizing things and revitalizing people. At Bedford Alzheimer’s Care Center, we get the privilege everyday of revitalizing our residents.
The most important thing we do is to become very familiar with our residents and their families. When talking with someone with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia (ARD) if you can take something that was once valuable to that person, talk with them about it, enjoy the familiarity of it, talk about the history and the purpose of it and then re-create it for something meaningful in the present. You have just had a great interaction with an older adult when you do this.
As you have probably heard, Alzheimer’s disease is increasing at an amazing rate of speed. Every 67 seconds, someone receives a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia (ARD). Alzheimer’s knows no age minimum or maximum, it doesn’t care about your bank statement, or how much you are loved by others. ARD is sneaky. It comes slowly to most, but can pounce on others when they least expect it. There is no known cause of this disease and there is no cure.
The need for specialized Alzheimer’s care will be at an all time high in the near future. This is a disease that wreaks havoc on families, employers, and the community as a whole. If you stop right now, you will think of someone that you know who suffers from this devastating disease.
In an effort to tackle the demands that this crippling disease will place upon our community, our neighbors, and our own families, we will be increasing our ability to care for those with ARD. Bedford Alzheimer’s Care Center will be relocating into the former Warren Hall building in January 2015. This will allow us to triple our size. We will be able to care for 60 persons instead of our current capacity of 20.
We have the unique opportunity to take a building that was once empty and considered to be without use or purpose and give it new life. Everyday we are fortunate enough to have the unique opportunity to care for residents who may feel empty or without a purpose and give them a sense of meaning and value. We have the opportunity to re-discover the unique and special gifts that everything and every person has to offer. We get this once-in-a-lifetime chance to revitalize how a community views and cares for Alzheimer’s disease. And we are extremely honored to be able to offer the specialized care that this disease demands and the residents deserve.
A native of Hattiesburg, Pam McKee Kelly, LPC, NHA, is a Licensed Professional Counselor who is also a licensed Nursing Home Administrator. Bedford Alzheimer’s Care Center provides a perfect mix of her two professions. She has been diligently working with cognitively challenged adults for over 20 years. Feel free to contact her at email@example.com or at 601-544-5300.
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