Glenmeadow will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, March 12 at 3 p.m. to officially open Fraser’s, a new haven for residents living with dementia that will enhance their sense of purpose.
The space on the second floor of the life plan community was created to support residents living with dementia or other cognitive loss and is designed for them to engage with staff in activities tailored to their specific interests.
Made possible by a gift from two brothers whose mother was a Glenmeadow resident, the space is dedicated to peace, tranquility and restoration and will also be open and available for staff and all residents seeking a quiet place to decompress and rejuvenate.
“We are very grateful for the gift from family members so that we can continue to enhance our programming. Philanthropy is one avenue that allows us to continue to provide offerings that are innovative and fresh,” said Anne Thomas, president and CEO of Glenmeadow.
Thomas also noted, “We are committed to enhancing our services for people living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.”
Laura Lavoie, Glenmeadow’s director of life enrichment and a certified independent Positive Approach to Care™ (PAC) trainer, said after staff presents an overview on the goals of the room, those at the ribbon cutting will also observe a demonstration on the use of the room’s resources. Visitors from the public will learn about opportunities to volunteer with residents at Glenmeadow.
Lavoie said one key goal of Fraser’s is to make people living with dementia feel valued and appreciated. The peaceful space will offer a center for residents to engage with staff using resources that allow them to complete tasks and experience pride and productivity.
Along one wall inside Fraser’s are cabinets that hold activity kits to meet a range of different interests. Former contractors, for instance, might enjoy sanding wooden blocks or engaging with a staff member to build something with PVC pipe. A retired accountant could work with a calculator, accounting registers and receipts. There are quizzes for former teachers to grade.
Residents will not use these materials as they might use items in craft projects. Instead, there will be a deliberate focus on how the resident can help get a project done. Staff might ask, “I need help creating something with this PVC pipe. Can you help me?”
“The intention is not to simply complete tasks,” Lavoie said. “We want to talk about what that person built or experienced in the past, engage them in reminiscing, and as we’re doing it, we can also talk about what we’re doing and what the person wants to do or create. It’s total engagement with the person.”
Lavoie said those who wish to take part in the activities will find them soothing and also feel a sense of purpose. “It’s a way to make people here feel happy, to feel a sense of self-worth and accomplishment,” she said. “The activities give them a sense that they are playing a civic role.”
Resources available will also include memory boxes, which will hold items related to a particular theme—such as the holidays, the beach, gardening or sewing. “The materials will be available for reminiscing and discussion,” Lavoie said, noting, again, that while the materials can be used in crafting, the purpose of the items in the room—jars of beads, buttons and similar supplies—will instead be the launching pad for discussion. “We might ask, ‘Can you help me sort these beads by color?”
One of three Positive Approach to Care (PAC) trainers in Western Mass, Lavoie has been sharing her knowledge of dementia care with staff members, and has trained employees in techniques for better approaching difficult personalities and situations.
Every Glenmeadow employee—from caregivers to dining servers to maintenance staff—receives mandatory dementia training upon hiring, plus ongoing training opportunities, specific to their functional role.
Lavoie said the concept for Fraser’s came out of her trainings. She said Fraser’s has been a quiet room for many years but was underutilized because the décor was not conducive to relaxation, and the space didn’t hold the kinds of enticing activities and resources it will hold now.
Now, Fraser’s is inviting. The walls are light tan and sage. Upholstered chairs are arranged around a circular table and adjacent to two small, rectangular work tables, which are also portable. The space holds plants, a fish tank, ambient lighting, music and aromatherapy.
The sons who made the donation to Glenmeadow did so after their mother took part in the Buddies program at the nonprofit; Lavoie said they felt grateful because the experience of being paired with a volunteer was beneficial.
The Buddies program serves people living with dementia who feel isolated. Volunteers are trained and matched with a resident; the pairs then take part in activities together—attending a program or having breakfast in Longmeadow. Now, buddies may also choose to work together in Fraser’s.
To learn how to become a buddy, contact Lavoie at LLavoie@glenmeadow.org.