It’s just after lunch on a Wednesday afternoon in the new Emma’s neighbourhood of The Village of Taunton Mills, and a resident named Valerie sits quietly at a table sipping a cup of tea. Team members and other residents buzz around the large open space, which is only about half-filled a few weeks after the new retirement neighbourhoods opened, but Valerie is simply sitting with her tea.
Valerie has been here less than three weeks, but she’s already settled in quite nicely. For people living with dementia such transitions can sometimes be difficult, but Valerie has already found familiarity among some of the team members and most already know a lot about her. They’ve learned many of her likes and dislikes and some of the key points of her life history, which opens a path to support that helps her find comfort in her days.
It may seem elementary, this idea that in order to truly support a person’s needs one must have a foundational understanding of who they are and what they fear or desire, but many approaches to dementia care glaze over the concept of knowing each person as individuals. They too often look at dementia as a blanket term with set guidelines or strategies for care, but Schlegel Villages had moved well beyond this.
Through the LIVING IN MY Today Dementia Program, team members learn that dementia changes how people perceive and experience the world around them; there is no “loss of self”, the program teaches, but rather a “change in self”. LIVING in My Today supports people living with dementia as they tap into their strengths, express themselves and enjoy the comfort and security of friendships in a place where they experience acceptance and belonging. The emphasis on developing relationships while understanding the experience of those living with dementia forms the foundation of The Five Pillars of LIVING in My Today: (MEETS) Meaningful and Active Engagement, Enjoyable Mealtimes, Empowered Care Partners, Thoughtful Design and Supportive Approaches.
In her daughter Neila’s eyes, Valerie’s contentment in the short time she’s been at Taunton Mills is evidence that the focus on individuality within Emma’s Neighbourhood is a success.
On Christmas, for example, just a few days after Valerie moved in, Neila brought her mother to her house, not far from Taunton Mills. They watched Christmas movies and just enjoyed their time together. After Christmas dinner, Valerie was dancing and singing to Christmas songs, and Neila says, “I haven’t seen her that happy in years.”
Eventually it was time for Valerie to return to Taunton Mills. “You’re not taking me back to the old place, are you?” Valerie asked. That question was an indication of what Valerie had been missing while living in a different home that didn’t honour the individual needs of the residents there, Neila says. She hated returning there whenever she was out for a short time. She was happy to return to her new home, though.
“The change in my Mum has been incredible,” Neila says. She was over-medicated at her previous care home, Neila adds, and there was very little there to stimulate any aspect of the residents’ lives. Taunton Mills is so much different, and Neila’s mind is at ease.
“I sleep peacefully at night,” she says. “I’ve never seen a place like this.”
As Valerie sips her tea this Wednesday afternoon, she greets and is greeted by team members as they pass by. She looks through a book filled with pictures of England in the 1960s and she reminisces about life in the country of her birth. She mentions her husband, and her love for him is clear, though he is no longer with her in body. She smiles when she says his name.
She is content here, it seems, and that is all her family could ever hope for.