By Benjamin Goodin
Jenifer Stanberry is a very busy person. As the director of the new Pekin location of the Villas at Holly Brook, the reason for her busyness is well understood.
The new facility itself is one of a kind, housing one of the only state-licensed memory care unit in the Pekin area. Reflections is a 55-bed wing of the larger facility that includes a 50-bed assisted living wing as well. It is also one of the fastest growing locations. Having opened in late October 2016, the facility is already at almost half its maximum capacity. In just this short time, Jenifer and the staff have already been the recipients of two of the company’s prestigious Circle of Excellence awards.
One of the awards is for the unique building architecture and layout; the second is for exceptional service.
When asked what really makes Reflections outstanding, she does not hesitate in naming her team. Its not just the amount of time that they spend with the residents that bonds them, it’s the dedication in their hearts. “They give the best possible care that they can to everyone. They have a true passion.”
“In the team I have been privileged enough to put together, each member has an average of eight to ten years of experience with dementia… the nurses, the CNAs, even the housekeepers and dieticians.” This collective experience allows the staff of Reflections to best serve the needs of those with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Experience means a lot when it comes to caring for an elder with memory issues; each situation requires a personalized touch. Many memory care residents live only partially in the world around them. Most live in version of reality that exists solely in their own minds, but that is nonetheless very real to them. “A person with memory issues may being having a conversation [with you] that they completely understand, but it might not make much sense to others. You must be able to communicate with them on their terms; if they say the sky is green, you go with it. In order to care for them, you have to go to their reality. They cannot come to yours. People with a lot of experience know that.” Meeting residents on their level requires that a caregiver be patient and understanding — a skill that is difficult to teach. To care for a memory care resident requires skills best learned through hands-on familiarity, which itself requires great compassion and patience.
Knowing that each resident varies in ability and degree of memory loss, Reflections works to make the resident activities they conduct inclusive for all levels of the disease by making participation ability based. If a resident is very independent, they can likely complete the entire activity on their own. If a different person needs assistance, the activity can be adapted to their level of function.
Baking is something that is done a great deal at Reflections this time of year. If a resident can make a whole batch of cookies on their own, they are welcome to do so. However, if a different resident can manage cracking the eggs but cannot stir the batter, they are welcomed to complete the task in collaboration with other residents. Participation of any sort is encouraged, but no specific ability is required to be a part of the group.
Being a part of daily activities, of which Reflections conducts many, is one of the key ways to connect with and engage those with memory loss. Sensory stimulation is incredibly important to those with memory loss, as it keeps them connected with the present and can sometimes uncover long-buried links to the past. The afore-mentioned baking may sound like a simple way to keep a person entertained, but to a former homemaker, it may help them reconnect to their past and fond memories. For those with more advanced memory loss, remembering to eat or even if they have already eaten can present a challenge; the smell of the baking cookies may reignite their appetite and serve as a reminder to eat. At Reflections, Jenifer and her staff look for as many ways possible to engage and stimulate their residents, conducting a wide variety of hands-on activities like dominoes, dance, exercise groups each morning, crafts, games, and of course, baking.
Having many activities to choose from not only keeps residents connected to the present, it gives them enriching experiences to fill their days. Busy days through lots of engagement not only make life more meaningful, but it also helps the residents to sleep more soundly at night. As any adult, memory issues or none, can attest to, restful sleep keeps the body and mind full of energy. For a memory care resident, this can make a big difference between a peaceful day and a difficult day, and the team at Reflections aims to provide as many peaceful days as possible for their beloved residents.
One of the other ways that Reflections tries to encourage more good days for their residents is by inviting the family of those in their care to participate as often as possible. “We try to incorporate family [participation] into everything. We want them to feel welcome. We want them to know how their relative is doing. Long-term senior care gets a reputation for hiding information or being non-transparent with families.”
Reflections aims to be completely transparent with families about their elder’s care. Not only does participation raise the spirits of the elder, it provides the family with peace of mind knowing that they have the full picture of their elder’s care. In many cases, this sort of three-pronged interaction between the facility, family, and senior can help alleviate some of the family’s burden of guilt for having others care for their senior. The family can rest assured that their elder is cared for by professionals, and the senior still gets to see familiar faces. Perhaps best for the family, is seeing the way that Jenifer and her team cares for their loved one.
Spending so much time with the residents in such an individual manner often bonds caregivers and the elders they care for. For Jenifer, the connection is even more personal. Her own grandmother eventually developed dementia, so her dedication to seeing to the wellness of the residents is very close to her heart. She is certain that her staff feels a similar sense of purpose and connection. “We are family here. The staff, residents, residents’ families, everyone we admit becomes like a grandparent.” What could be more comforting than having your own senior cared for by staff that is not only knowledgeable, but family as well?
If you are interested in learning more about Reflections Memory Care in Pekin, and would like a personalized tour of the facilities,
please contact Jenifer Stanberry at 309-201-3763 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reflections is located at 2720 S 14th St, Pekin, IL.
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