Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Summer House at Villa Gardens: Making Connections

This is the final blog in a three-part series featuring Summer House at Villa Gardens. Visit our archives to read about the innovative care philosophy and life enrichment programming at this unique memory care neighborhood at Villa Gardens Retirement Community in Pasadena, California.

by Katherine Kennedy, MSG

As the manager of Summer House at Villa Gardens, every day I have the opportunity to witness smiles of joy on the faces of our residents as they experience and discover the many life enrichment opportunities we offer. It’s why I do what I do. Yet, many family members seem to miss out on this experience. For some, there is a feeling of weariness and being disconnected that often accompanies anticipatory grief, since some have been on the dementia care journey for close to 20 years. For others it’s due to the perception of memory care as strictly biomedical.

In the early days when Summer House at Villa Gardens first opened, in spite of everything we aspired to create, I felt something was missing. I soon came to realize it was that essential connection with family members; that a vital part of the care-equation should be to offer them support, education, and additional community resources. Positive connections between family and care partners were what could fuel the success of a resident-centered care philosophy. These important connections could encourage positive and possibly transformational engagement opportunities for our residents. We needed a way to make that happen.

Bringing in community leaders in dementia care as guest speakers and hosting quarterly care conferences are just a few of the ways we make connections with families and offer support. This month, for example, our guest speaker from the USC Family Caregiver Support Center will be discussing self-care for family caregivers. We also wanted the ability to share the positive aspects of daily life with our residents’ families. By introducing the The Memory Kit app to our family members we have been able to share precious moments captured throughout the day through photos stored privately within the app. This kind of sharing allows us to celebrate everyone as a group, while also highlighting residents as individuals.

In an effort to continue to grow our family connections, we’ll soon be inviting our family members to participate in activities using It’s Never 2 Late (iN2L), a 70-inch interactive smartboard. By creating personalized “My Pages” for each resident, families can use iN2L to upload photos and videos to their loved one’s page that can then be viewed on the smartboard. Family members will also be invited to use the smartboards alongside residents to engage in residents’ favorite iN2L programs and activities (see Part 2 of this blog series).

Through the use of these innovative tools and a holistic approach to memory care, we’ve found that we’re not only able to offer stimulating activities customized to our resident needs, but that we can begin to bridge the gap between residents and care partners, residents and families, and care partners with each other as we work together to create a supportive and nurturing environment at Summer House at Villa Gardens. 

In observance of National Alzheimer’s Awareness month in November, we are proud to highlight this three-part blog featuring Summer House at Villa Gardens, a memory care neighborhood. Read more about our care philosophy in Part 1 of this series and our innovative approach to Life Enrichment in Part 2.

Katherine Kennedy graduated with a master’s of science in gerontology from USC in 2015 and received a bachelor’s of science in psychology from Santa Clara University. While in graduate school, she worked at the USC Family Caregiver Support Center helping caregivers of adults with brain impairment and completed her graduate internship with Belmont Village Westwood as its operations intern and activities assistant with a focus on memory programs. After graduation, she worked at Alzheimer’s Orange County in the Outreach and Advocacy Department facilitating community outreach projects related to dementia education and advance care planning, as well as became involved as an advisor for The Memory Kit, an app that seeks to unite care partners in celebrating a loved one or a community group. Katherine is now the Summer House manager and administrator in training at Villa Gardens, a Front Porch retirement community where she manages and oversees the care of and therapeutic programming for 19 individuals with Alzheimer’s and related dementias and the care partners who work to accomplish the programs.

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