Thriving at Every Stage: Senior Living Options
Live long and be well—who wouldn’t raise a glass to that? But the ‘be well’ part is crucial: anyone who’s watched an elderly loved one become afflicted with illness will tell you that. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease—a type of dementia—is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 5 million Americans diagnosed. Not only is memory loss hard for all affected, but it is changing the shape of senior care. Increasingly, communities are addressing the issue by providing a continuum of services, from independent and assisted living arrangements to full-scale memory care. But how do we know when the time has come to move an elderly loved one? And how do we gauge which type of care is best?
Ever since 1960 when it first opened, Mari de Villa in Town & Country has prided itself on helping residents cope with the increasing challenges of aging, taking into account its different stages. “We take care of everybody’s needs,” says CEO and president Fred Wiesehan. Its 54 independent living villas—called Villa Estates—are a home-away-from-home for those who still can live independently but might be seeking the community and security that such an arrangement provides. Meanwhile, seniors in need of more assistance with daily living activities (bathing, dressing, meal preparation and so on) live in a skilled nursing facility where assistance of all kinds is available. In addition, Mari de Villa has 10 specially designed terrace units for those with memory loss and dementia. By having the different levels of service on one campus, seniors are able to ‘age in place’ and avoid the upheaval of moving that can be particularly traumatic in later years. “This transition is seamless,” Wiesehan says. “Over the years, our residents get to know our staff and our staff get to know them. They are still ‘home’ on the grounds of Mari de Villa even when they move to a different level of care.”
Wiesehan says Mari de Villa helps people decide if it’s time for a retirement community generally by asking these kinds of questions: Are you becoming isolated at home? Do you skip meals, or eat poorly? Have routine chores become too difficult? Are you showing signs of forgetfulness that threaten your safety? Have you stopped getting together with friends, or given up pursuing meaningful activities? If the answer to some of these is yes, Wiesehan says, then it might be time to consider a communal living environment.
Meanwhile, Provision Living at West County opened last year and, to meet an increased need, specializes exclusively in memory care. Katy Rice, community relations mentor, says while most senior living communities focus on helping seniors move to either memory care or assisted living, Provision Living at West County offers a solution for families who may feel uncertain about the right type of care needed for their loved ones by combining the two. “Our approach doesn’t require a choice between assisted living and memory care. Instead, we support all the needs of those with cognitive decline,” Rice says. This means life enrichment activities, medication management and nursing care through end of life.
According to Rice, most people move to Provision Living at West County with mild to moderate stage dementia, when it simply is no longer safe to remain at home. “A person might be leaving the oven on, or going out and not able to find their way home,” she explains. In some cases, Provision accommodates both members of a couple even if only one is living with memory loss. “If a couple has been married for 30 or 40 years, it’s important that they stay together,” Rice says. “We meet whatever needs there are so that every elder can thrive and feel inspired and loved.”