Today we opened a new 15-room Memory Care neighborhood for residents with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Nestled within another portion of our skilled rooms, the new Memory Care is designed to test new household concepts of care delivery. Our staff is excited to make it home for our residents (it is), and I can’t give enough thanks to all of the people that helped make it possible.
Which is what makes the next part of this story disappointing.
Last week we left the doors open for on-lookers as we moved furniture, installed fixtures, and inventoried equipment. It was late afternoon and our Director of Maintenance and I were wrapping up for the day. A family member from another area of the nursing home wandered in to look around. She had actually followed me in.
“Can I ask you something?” she said.
“Of course.” I was acquainted with this particular family member.
“You’re going to cover up the windows or these doors so we don’t have to look at these people, aren’t you?”
“I’ve worked with these people, and we shouldn’t have to look at them. I don’t want to see these people, I know what they do.”
I know, there are a lot of things I could have said next. Reading what I wrote, it’s was more offensive than the way it reads. Anyways, I was speechless. And just to go on the record, her sentiment is exactly the opposite of how I feel, about not just long term care, but how I try to treat every person on God’s earth. Even animals and bugs, now that I think about it. Everything has a purpose, and the right to serve that purpose with dignity.
Our residents with Alzheimer’s disease have the disadvantage of memory loss. Difficulty remembering their former purpose often leads to frustration and confusion. Rather than attempt to alter this reality, we now understand that is better to direct residents down the most comfortable path than to redirect or reality-orient. We will encourage our residents to assist us with the “activities of household living ™” that will help to give them a purpose, even if it is different than the one they remembered in an earlier stage of their life.
We will not let any resident live a life without purpose. I hope that is the mission of many organizations such as ours. I believe that we do the right thing by co-habitating these residents so they may receive focused programming and well-intentioned care and attention. Looking down upon this group or any group of residents, though, is wrong, and I believe that as a resident advocate, a long term care professional, and a good Christian, that I was right in saying... Well, it doesn’t matter. I said the right thing. I received a snide remark in return, but that’s okay – we do it for the residents.