Real Home and Real Relationships are Positive for People Living with Dementia (and all people)

By / Posted on March 1st, 2013

At a recent Leading Age Luncheon, CEO of Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC), Ron Yoder, shared a story that illustrated the power of home over institution to support those living with dementia

In 2000, VMRC had a secured Alzheimer’s neighborhood in its nursing center. The layout is semi-private rooms on both sides of a middle corridor and a sitting area at the entrance to the neighborhood. When the carpet needed to be replaced, the residents were moved to an assisted living neighborhood during the day while the workers were laying the carpet.

The assisted living neighborhood is “homelike” — private rooms and private baths surrounding common/shared spaces consisting of a dining room, living/sitting room, and residential kitchen.

The first day the residents were in the assisted living neighborhood their caregivers reported that the residents were more alert and active. At the end of the day residents asked, “can we stay here?” and not return to the Alzheimer’s neighborhood.

I remember reflecting that if a “homelike physical environment” has that profound of a life giving impact on residents with Alzheimer’s disease compared to an “institutional environment,” it creates a moral imperative to change.

Several years ago the Alzheimer’s neighborhood in the nursing center was closed. We now have three memory care neighborhoods in the assisted living community for residents with various types of dementia. Residents with dementia who require 24-hour complete living care (need assistance with all ADLs) live throughout the nursing center rather than in a dedicated neighborhood.

The Green House Model takes this concept to the next level through a real home environment, person-centered focus, and deeply knowing relationships that create an ideal space for a person with dementia to thrive.   As a thought leader in the field of aging, The Green House Project recently participated in a TEDMED Great Challenges Series on the growing challenge of dementia. Through this online panel and twitter (#GreatChallenges) conversation, many innovative ideas were shared, with a focus on person-centered care, increased training for staff, and support for caregivers.