When Great Oaks Retirement Village’s development team started designing their vision of a modern, holistic retirement community, their first stop was to collaborate with a respected neuro architect who understands the finer nuances of effective and sustainable therapeutic interventions.
“Sustainable memory care has not always received the attention it deserves, but senior care service providers across the world are starting to pay more attention,” says Helen Seaman of Constantia Life Developers.
“As no two people with memory loss are the same, there should not be a standardised approach to memory care. In order to provide world-class, cutting-edge care, it is important to stay on top of all new information and data coming from global memory care research, and apply the learnings and principles that are proven to work most effectively and sustainably.”
Seaman and her team place great emphasis on offering residents the best chance at a meaningful and fulfilled life, no matter where they are on their health and wellness journey. This includes working with the individual needs of the residents’ as they live with what can be a debilitating and confusing condition.
Great Oaks Retirement Village will open in Constantia, Cape Town, early in 2023. While the Village is purposefully designed to address the unique needs of seniors, no matter their healthcare needs, it is its groundbreaking approach that will set the benchmark for memory care in South Africa.
Creating Visual Cues
“Working with colour and visual references is vital to easing confusion or stress in a resident struggling with memory loss,” notes Seaman.
Room entrances have memory boards, bright colours, names and photographs for easy recognition by residents, while shadow boxes with photographs or favourite items from a resident’s life are strategically placed to help remind them where they are.
Rooms are also designed to ensure that a resident can see the toilet from their bedroom to make a visual connection without having to remember where the bathroom is. In addition, bathroom mirrors are strategically positioned so that residents don’t confuse their reflection with someone else being in the room.
Working with Wandering
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, six in 10 people living with dementia will wander at least once, while some do it repeatedly.
“Instead of putting measures in place to discourage wandering, we implemented design elements to ensure that residents who do wander, can do so safely.”
The team designed their walkways to ensure residents don’t get lost. Passages and walkways also include natural turn-around points – thereby eliminating confusing dead ends – while strategically placed furniture breaks any possible tunnel vision and encourages wandering residents to rest.
For added safety, there are no thresholds or trip hazards, while there are no dark colours or patterns on the floors or furniture that may be seen as holes or obstacles.
Research has shown that sensory stimulation may assist with easing the behavioural challenges faced by individuals struggling with memory loss.
One of the elements incorporated into Great Oaks’s Memory Care Centre is Snoezelen therapy in a multi-sensory room to calm and reduce patient agitation through the use of soothing sound and fibre-optic light.
Other therapeutic interventions include incorporating activities that improve mental stimulation, dexterity and cognitive function through the incorporation of stimulating games, an aviary that will appeal to the nurturing side of residents, and a herb garden that will provide residents with physical and mental stimulation while giving them a sense of purpose.
Stimulating Appetite & Encouraging Healthy Eating
At the turn of the century, researchers found that displaying tanks of brightly coloured fish may not only curtail disruptive behaviour, but also improve the appetites and eating habits of memory care patients.
The study showed that residents who were exposed to fish tanks appeared more relaxed and ate more food. Great Oaks’s Memory Care Centre will therefore have fish tanks in the dining room area.
While working with experts in the field, the design team also discovered that colourful plates will improve a resident’s appetite and ability to recognise food.
But having a better appetite means nothing if residents’ diets are not on point. A purposefully designed menu of meals rich in all the nutrients needed to support and improve brain and memory function will nourish residents from within.
Respectful, Dignified Person-Centred Care
Person-centred care will be at the heart of Great Oaks Retirement Village’s extended care programme, and collaboration with a resident’s loved ones will be key to this process.
“Our emphasis will always be on the individual, not the condition, and it is important to recognise and maintain a resident’s lifestyle before they were diagnosed with memory loss,” notes Seaman.
“One must remember that a sudden routine in diet, lifestyle and daily rhythm will upset even the healthiest and most resilient person. And considering that living with Alzheimer’s or dementia is a stressful, scary and confusing time, it is even more important to help residents retain their normal usual routine in order to reduce their stress.”
Read more about the Great Oaks specialist healthcare offering, and contact us on 073 119 9999 to chat about our holistic approach to memory care.