What Is The Purpose of a Purpose-Built Memory Care Community?

An unavoidable fact of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is their progressive nature, meaning those affected gradually become challenged by activities that were once routine.

Confusion and memory loss can make even the most ordinary tasks seem overwhelming, creating unsafe conditions at home and a frightening dilemma for families and caregivers.

Another inconvenient truth is that all five senses—sight, hearing, smell, taste and sense of touch—are affected. Over time, the loss of sensory function takes a toll on a loved one’s emotional well-being, causing frustration, anxiety and even depression.

Long-term care settings offer more interventions than many caregivers can provide at home, yet the symptoms and behaviors of dementia are often exacerbated in large, unstructured spaces, creating a worsening situation. Yet while there is no cure, there is a response.

Purpose-Built Design Goals

Responding to these challenges, researchers have discovered how significant the environment is to the well-being of those living with Alzheimer’s disease. This key insight has led to the emergence of innovative design solutions that comprise purpose-built design in memory care communities.

In purpose-built memory care design, architectural features are purposefully used to promote familiarity, independence, and freedom of choice while minimizing the feeling of confinement that breeds anxiety and agitation.

All aspects of the purpose-built environment—from lighting, floor plans and décor to meals, activities and programming—are employed to offset the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia on the sensory nervous system with four primary goals in mind:

  • Minimize overstimulation. Because people with dementia function better in smaller spaces, a more intimate setting helps to control noise and visual stimulation.
  • Safeguard well-being. Purpose-built design prioritizes safety and security features while encouraging residents to remain independent for as long as possible.
  • Promote familiarity. Residential furnishings and natural light create a more comfortable and relaxed setting that looks and feels more like home.
  • Ease wayfinding. Visual cues, distinctive landmarks, intuitive floor plans with clear sight lines and special lighting assist navigation and direct residents to areas that will benefit them both physically and emotionally.

Purpose-Built For Tranquility

A breakthrough of purpose-built design is the awareness that space planning has a direct relationship with mood and well-being. Reliance on conventional “multi-purpose rooms” has been abandoned in favor of small group spaces and quieter venues that intentionally mimic a traditional family household.

Serenades Memory Care Assisted Living communities, for example, feature small residential neighborhoods to control stimulation for residents who get easily overwhelmed—a common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease that can lead to unwanted behaviors. Communities are decorated in a domestic, aesthetically comforting manner with family-style living and dining rooms to help residents feel more at ease.

Purpose-built features at Serenades increase comfort and minimize anxiety, including:

  • Residential detailing, materials and furnishings convey a sense of “at home.”
  • Proper space allocation permits better noise control to benefit residents agitated by crowds and noise.
  • Domestic kitchens and dining rooms provide less stimulation compared to large dining room settings, which have been linked to reduced food intake and weight loss.
  • Residential décor and soft colors create a calming effect on residents.
  • Personal objects and possessions from home promote familiarity and belonging.
  • Front porches and patios resemble the family home and reinforce feelings of familiarity.

Purpose-Built For Engagement

Architectural features of purpose-built memory care communities reduce confusion, agitation, and anxiety caused by dementia. They also promote meaningful engagement to enhance self-esteem and awareness.

Using purpose-built design concepts, Serenades Memory Care Assisted Living communities feature open floor plans to keep line of sight open, motivating residents to engage with other residents and activities while promoting a higher level of interaction between caregivers and residents.

Numerous studies cite the benefits of social interaction, which is proven to give people with dementia a sense of purpose, improving their mood, self-esteem, and overall well-being.

Purpose-built features designed to increase engagement include:

  • Small neighborhood design or “cluster households” encourage more interaction between caregivers and residents and help form deeper, more meaningful relationships.
  • Individual and small group activities empower residents to use their retained abilities through freedom of choice and self-awareness.
  • Personalized activities slow the progression of the disease and reduce the need for medication.
  • Family-style living rooms promote comfort and familiarity while encouraging longer family visits or gatherings.
  • Play areas to encourage longer visits with grandchildren.
  • Resource library to help educate caregivers and facilitate partnerships in the delivery of care.
  • Short, wide corridors with shorter walking distance to common areas give residents access to more social experiences.

Communities such as Serenades Memory Care take engagement one step further by using research-based programming practices based on Teepa Snow’s Positive Approach™ to Care, a nationally renowned program that emphasizes an ability-based approach to care.

Purpose-Built For Freedom

Allowing unrestricted access to both indoor and outdoor areas helps reduce agitation and frustration while improving physical fitness.

Around 60% of people with dementia will experience the urge to wander, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Given that most memory care residents share this need, purpose-built memory care communities have added not only outdoor spaces, but also motion sensors and GPS devices to track residents’ movements and location.

Safe wandering is encouraged to prevent agitation and reduce the feeling of being “cooped up.” It also stimulates appetite and prevents unwanted weight loss caused by dementia.

Purpose-built features designed to support wandering include:

  • Double-barrier monitored exits and entrances offer protection while supporting the need to maintain independence.
  • Simple, open floor plans provide unobstructed staff visibility and supervision.
  • Fully accessible, secure outdoor courtyard engages the senses and promotes a multi-sensory connection with nature.
  • Smart wearable devices permit keyless entry to apartments when privacy is desired.

Purpose-Built For Wayfinding

When designing for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, lighting is an important consideration. As soon as the sun goes down, people with dementia tend to get agitated, a behavior known as “sundowning.” Generous use of natural light helps reduce irritability and agitation associated with this time of day.

Even as the person with dementia forgets where they are or where they were going, they are far more likely to remember if and when they see it.

Multi-layer wayfinding cues help people orient themselves and recognize important destinations such as the bathroom. Spaces are distinctively designed both in appearance and overall layout while minimizing choices to reduce confusion and disorientation.

Distinctive and varied landmarks are used to not only assist residents in finding their way, but direct them to areas beneficial to their well-being. As dementia progresses, some people may lose the desire to eat, so visual cues guide residents to the kitchen. Wider corridors provide a cleaner line of sight between destinations and rooms. Residents who may not recall what they are searching for are redirected to join an activity if they see it.

Best practices for wayfinding in purpose-built design include:

  • Glare-free natural lighting creates a homelike aura and aid visual impairment.
  • Floor plans minimize walking distances and maximize visual connections to areas and activities that engage.
  • Virtual skylights increase access to natural light while full spectrum lighting regulates light variations.
  • Amber lighting in apartments illuminate a safe path from the bed to the bathroom at night.
  • Personalized apartment entrances serve as a visual aid and unique landmark for increased autonomy.
  • Colorful dishware create contrast on plates and guide residents to locate food.

Purpose-Built For Safety

Safety and security are fundamental to the purpose-built design philosophy and, living up to its name, every feature has a purpose.

Advanced security systems, as well as strategically placed cameras and motion sensors, are built into entrances and exits. Dementia-friendly building materials are used throughout, including low-pile carpet and anti-skid flooring, zero-entry showers with adjustable seats and low-glare lighting. Additionally, emergency pendants with built-in GPS capabilities and motion sensors keep staff apprised of each resident’s location at all times.

Enhanced sanitation technology produces cleaner air and surfaces. Resident room “staff check” buttons assure regular check-in intervals. And all staff working areas are located within easy access to enable a higher level of supervision and interaction with residents without seeming overly intrusive.

At Serenades Memory Care, next-level technology innovations in its newest communities include artificial intelligence (AI) predictive emergency call systems that not only prevent incidents, but predict them.

The goal is to integrate unobtrusive safety features while permitting greater freedom of movement and independence—all while maintaining the privacy and dignity of residents.

A few of the safety features at Serenades Memory Care Assisted Living include:

  • Wireless emergency call system integrated with phones, fire, motion sensors, door and window contacts.
  • Building materials reduce fall risk, including zero-entry showers and anti-skid flooring.
  • Motion sensors including secured window openings, roam alert and incontinence sensors.
  • Regulated water temperatures, anti-scald fixtures and appliances, and nontoxic plants.
  • Electrostatic spraying technology cling to awkward shaped object and offer more coverage of surfaces.
  • Touchless activation of doorways eliminate the need to touch commonly used objects, enhancing sanitation of the environment
  • Wearable smart devices permit independent and unrestricted access to apartments and outdoor venues.

Innovating Design For Dementia

Design trends in senior living may come and go, but until there is a cure, the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease will demand innovative design and treatment approaches.

Serenades Memory Care Assisted Living by Sonata is a leading provider of purpose-built memory care communities throughout Florida. Sonata’s purpose-built design incorporates the latest innovations and design considerations into distinct resident “neighborhoods” surrounding a large accessible outdoor courtyard.

For more information on memory care design and best practices, contact us today→ or schedule a visit →

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