Engaged, Loved, Cared For
At The Hearth, the staff in memory care treats residents as if they were members of their own family.
by Jennifer Updike

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia-related conditions can be extremely difficult. For family members and friends, the most important part of your life becomes making sure your loved one receives the best care possible to live each day with purpose and meaning. 
Among the staff at The Hearth at Drexel in Bala Cynwyd, providing compassionate care for residents and giving them every opportunity to feel happy and fulfilled is more than their job; it’s their passion. 
The Hearth’s community life staff leads interactive activities and engages residents with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia-related conditions every day to ensure that their lives are full of meaning and joy. With professional experience and a genuine passion for providing optimal care, The Hearth’s staff not only shares knowledge, but also uses personal understanding, experiences, and advice to help family members caring for loved ones who live with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia-related conditions.
Surprising Facts about Alzheimer’s and Dementia
* As many as 5.8 million Americans currently live with Alzheimer’s disease.
* Someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s every 65 seconds.
* As many as 16 million Americans provide voluntary (unpaid) care to individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia-related conditions, accounting for 18.5 billion hours of care per year.
What to Know When Caring for a Loved One
It can be difficult to see a loved one lose the abilities they once had. As their behavior changes from the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important to remember certain aspects of care that will help them sustain enriching lives. Here are some tips from staff at The Hearth that may help.
1. Consider Communication
* Have a warm and comforting tone when talking to them.
* Asking yes or no questions can help avoid confusion or frustration. For example, “Would you like some tea?” instead of, “What would you like to drink?”
* Try using different words if your loved one doesn’t understand what you said the first time.
2. How to Respond if a Loved One Becomes Agitated or Angry
* Speak to them calmly and attempt to comfort them. Listening to their worries or concerns, rather than dismissing them, can help them feel less frustrated.
* Maintain a regular daily routine.
* Have some quiet time built into your loved one’s daily schedule in addition to their activities.
* Gentle touching can be soothing for some.
3. Activities to Do Every Day
* Avoid activities that have multiple steps. Simple activities that can be completed in one or two steps can feel more enjoyable and less overwhelming.
* You don’t have to do the same activities every day. Trying new activities can help them feel engaged.
* Let your loved one watch you do activities if they find that more enjoyable. 
Inspired to Make a Difference
Taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia-related conditions can be incredibly difficult. The Hearth at Drexel’s team of compassionate staff makes sure to provide loved ones with enriching activities that fill them with joy and purpose.  
Sarah Hayes and Rachel Wilnauer, two community life coordinators at The Hearth at Drexel, both say that empowering residents in memory care to live happy, fulfilling lives is not work; it’s their passion. Their jobs motivate and inspire them on a daily basis.
Rachel and Sarah both began working at The Hearth in January of 2019, and their passion for working with older adults, especially those in memory care, is deeply rooted in their personal experiences with family and loved ones. For more than three years, Sarah took care of her grandmother, who now lives in an assisted memory care community.
“I give the same care to residents that I would want other staff to give to my grandmother,” Sarah says. “I do all that I can to make sure each resident is engaged, loved, and cared for.” 
Rachel is motivated by family, too. She says that her initial interest in providing care for older adults began after her grandmother was disappointed with the occupational therapy she received. 
“Occupational therapists would come in and work with her, and she would tell me that she was bored and wanted to do more,” Rachel says. “It made me wonder what I could do to help older adults in a way that would engage them in activities they’re interested in.” 
Her grandmother’s experience has a lot to do with where she is today in her career.
Days Filled with Fun and Creativity
With new and exciting daily activities, residents in memory care at The Hearth participate in everything from painting to music and dancing and even spending time with animals such as guinea pigs, bunnies, and a friendly companion dog named Daisy. As they engage in a variety of activities, residents fuel their everyday lives with fun and creativity.
Turning everyday items into beautiful works of art is one of Sarah’s favorite activities to do with residents in memory care. With just a coffee filter, markers, water, and a paintbrush, residents express their creativity and create a masterpiece.
It’s a simple process with a spectacular outcome. Sarah prepares the activity by coloring the coffee filters with marker and placing them over blank canvases. Residents then dip their paintbrushes in water to coat the surface. As residents’ brushstrokes cross the canvas, their masterpiece comes to life. The outcome of this activity “makes them so happy,” Sarah says.
“I have a whole collection,” adds Carolyn Williams, a memory care resident, as she places her completed works of art one in front of the other.
Adding joy and excitement to each day, this artistic activity paints the perfect picture of everyday life in memory care with staff and residents at The Hearth.
To learn more about how The Hearth enriches the lives of residents every day, go to thehearthatdrexel.org.
Photograph courtesy of Liberty Lutheran
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life magazine, October 2019.