New memory care program involves Mesa center The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

New memory care program involves Mesa center

New memory care program involves Mesa center
Mesa
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TRIBUNE NEWS STAFF

A five-year partnershiop between a Mesa adult day care center and a lifelong learning provider have produced a memory care engagement program that a spokeswoman said makes participants “feel valued, loved and connected.”

Oakwood Creative Care and ALLE Learning utilized research gleaned from their partnership to create EngAGE EnCOURAGE, which “sets a new standard for best practicees in caring for adults with memory impairment by blending creative and expressive sessions with lifelong learning,” spokeswoman Rose Tring said.

Family members of memory-impaired people are praising the program, saying they see improved brain fuction and mobility in their loved ones.

Marsha Segler, for example, said, “My husband has had an increase in cognitive improvement and in muscle control.”

Oakwood has moved some offerings online to reduce health risk for clients during the pandemic. But even virtually, the classes are having a positive impact.

“With this pandemic and having to stay home, my husband’s dementia was going downhill fast and he was so depressed,” said Joyce Leiske. “Even though he is quiet and sometimes dozes off, he looks forward to the classes and his confusion has improved. Even our son commented on how much better he seems to be doing.”

Sherri Friend, president and CEO of Mesa-based Oakwood, said when she took over management at the nonprofit program eight years ago, “it was very institutionalized.”

She patterned her approach to providing daily services at Oakwood from the model credited to Professor Thomas Kitwood at the University of Bradford in England, who advocates for person-centered care that recognizes people’s personal beliefs, life experiences and relationships that matter to memory function.

Friend and ALLE founder Jennifer Clancy wanted to create better programs and classes for those in adult day clubs and adult living environments.

“The EngAGE EnCOURAGE curriculum focuses on using adult language, engaging the participants and their family members in familiar topics, and stimulating their creativity. Our goal is for them to have the best experience possible every day,” Friend said.

“For whatever reason, if you have a dementia diagnosis, we were trained that you can’t learn, that you were just losing skills,” Friend said “People with memory impairment still learn and still retain information. It just has to be done differently to help them be successful.”

For the past 20 years, scientists and researchers have searched to find a cure for dementia. During that time, much has been learned about the human brain, including what works and what doesn’t.

Clancy said that research has proven that the old “brain games” don’t move the needle and people become less engaged with the world around them, and lose their ability to communicate their feelings or even their daily needs.

“While we can’t eliminate many of these outcomes, we can change what people with dementia experience daily. Using the proven theory that most people enjoy the interaction with others, we have blended creative and expressive sessions with lifelong learning and developed a program that enables participants to celebrate lives well-lived,” Clancy explained.

She said that EngAGE EnCOURAGE uses the same tools her company developed for independent and assisted living communities but zeros in on providing opportunities for recall and new experiences.

“Every day, we see an image, a song, or a poem trigger long-forgotten memory,” Clancy said. “A class about Henry Ford leads to robust discussions & storytelling about first cars, and learning to drive.”

EngAGE EnCOURAGE helps seniors on all levels of memory ability meet social needs and improve their sense of belonging. The program also inspires curiosity and learning, a key component of slowing the progression of dementia.

Lisa Genova, a neuroscientist and author of the novel Still Alice, cited ways individuals can prevent the onset of symptoms related to Alzheimer’s disease that touches specifically on cognitive development.

“Every time we learn something new, we are creating and strengthening new neural connections, new synapses,” she said. “So, we can be resilient to the presence of Alzheimer’s pathology through the recruitment of yet-undamaged pathways.”

EngAGE EnCOURAGE focuses on providing opportunities for recall and creating new synapses by giving memory-impaired seniors new experiences, whether it’s learning about America’s National Parks, or crafting a creative project as a legacy gift for a family member.

“Our goal is for them to have the best experience possible, to find meaning and purpose, and to know they are valued and to feel connected to others,” Clancy said.

Information: Engage-Encourage.com

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