A great quality of life includes spending time with family and friends – making memories, sharing experiences, and strengthening bonds. However, making good memories with a family member or loved one suffering from a memory-related illness may seem impossible or even counter-productive. Some may say, “Why bother? They don’t even recognize me anymore.” Our care team at The Saybrook at Haddam’s Safe Harbor Memory Care neighborhood wants everyone to know daily doses of happiness and feelings of worth are possible, and are important to the overall quality of life for residents here.
Research shows Alzheimer’s and dementia patients may not recall someone’s name or their relationship to them – but they do know the person visiting them is someone important and special. They do connect with people and benefit from friendship, personal connections, and a loving touch.
Additionally, in a recent www.agingcare.com article, care giving expert Carol Bradley Bursack says, “Even though the person may not indicate in any way that your presence is known, it may well be that the touch of your hand, the sound of your voice or even some sense we cannot quantify will get through to this person, somehow.”
This is what motivates us at Safe Harbor and is why we are promoting more activities with family and friends designed to create new moments and memories.
The most entertaining and successful event has been our “Throwback Thursday Family Game Night” which we have hosted monthly since the beginning of the year. Family and friends join us for a simple dinner and a few rounds of well-known and familiar board games. The goal is to create a momentary memory, somewhat of a snapshot of happiness to treasure. “The disease erodes so much of the past, so helping families create a new memory is my real objective,” said Kathy Hallett, director of Safe Harbor. “This evening does just that – and is filled with laughter and joy for everyone who takes part. It really is a special night.”
We know dementia residents often have a heightened need to feel safe and secure – and that comes best from family and friends. Therefore, we ask all visitors to write in the “Family Notes” book that each resident has in his room. Families jot down a few notes to recap their visit and include a reminder of when they will return. They also write encouraging words, share a silly memory, or leave other messages. The Safe Harbor care team will read and reread these notes out loud to residents throughout the day. It is a simple but extremely soothing strategy for those struggling with memory illness.
Another way we involve family is to ask them to share their talents and interests with us at Safe Harbor. For instance, we learned that a resident’s daughter was a local artist – so we asked her to help us celebrate National Art Week. She happily hosted two hands-on workshops that explored a variety of mediums and taught us about several famous artists.
In general, our daily activity calendar is made up of a wide variety of happenings that are open to family and friends. These include group sing-alongs, playing word games, arts and crafts, pet visits, cultural events, cooking demonstrations, and more. Taking part in these events help make visits much more enjoyable and, yes, even memorable. Everyone benefits on different levels.
We recognize memory loss creates a level of pain and discomfort for family and friends who feel their loved ones have “forgotten” who they are. We want everyone to know that friends and family always remain important to people with dementia – and that they are always a crucial part of the quality of life for residents at Safe Harbor.
We welcome you to visit Safe Harbor and take part in our wonderful activities. Please contact us for a current calendar of events.
For a personalized tour of Safe Harbor and the entire Saybrook at Haddam community, please contact David Downey by clicking here or by calling 860-345-3779.