One Auburn care facility has reimagined how it cares for patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Loretto opened its fourth Memory Special Care Unit Wednesday at the Commons on Saint Anthony in Auburn, the first for Cayuga County.
Taking up an entire floor, the unit is designed to look like a neighborhood instead of a typical nursing home. Features include porch lights outside their rooms and room numbers that look like the numbers found on a house. Walls and ceilings are also painted with outdoor scenes.
Kathleen White is the Marketing and Public Relations Manager for Loretto. She told Finger Lakes News Radio this stylistic change sets the tone for the unit.
“It really sets the tone for the entire approach for this memory special care unit because it’s meeting them and their needs wherever they are in their journey with Alzheimer’s and dementia.”
The unit also includes the Montessori Method of care, a method that encourages independence for patients by giving them choices to provide them with a sense of meaning and purpose as well as chances for social interaction. With this method, programs and activities are resident-led, giving them more control over their lives while still making sure they’re safe. White used the example of a former waitress who helped redesign the dining space.
“For example, we have some individuals who used to be waitresses. [We asked] them ‘How do you experience dining here? What would you like to see improved?’ We have one resident who redesigned the dining room layout. She also now helps in serving dinners,” explained White. “It brings her that kind of purpose and satisfaction in her day-to-day [life].”
New technology also plays a key part in the unit. lifelike animatronic pets and babies for the residents to interact with. Software platforms and gaming systems also encourage physical activity and social interaction while improving cognition.
“It’s really special to be on a floor, to see within this community all of them together in their varying stages of their journey with Alzheimer’s and dementia being able to have one another,” White concluded.
Funded in part through grant funding from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation and the United Way of Cayuga County, the unit took six months to plan and three months to construct.
According to the New York State Department of Health, the number of people in New York living with Alzheimer’s exceeds 410,000; that number is expected to increase to 460,000 by next year. Loretto adds that 22% of that population lives in the company’s service area of Cayuga and Onondaga Counties. These statistics prompted Loretto to create the new unit in Auburn.