To keep up with unprecedented demand for its revolutionary memory care, CareOne is expanding several of its facilities throughout New Jersey to offer its signature Harmony Village communities for those with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.
Over the next several months, the family-owned healthcare organization, which has developed a reputation for offering cutting-edge, patient-centered memory care, will open new Harmony Village memory care communities at its Hanover, Wayne, Valley and Evesham Assisted Living facilities and add additional apartments to the existing Harmony Village at CareOne Stanwick Road in Moorestown.
What’s spurring the growth? “Many caregivers of those who have dementia have had very little support over the past year and a half during the pandemic and have struggled to care for their loved one by themselves,” says John Albanese, VP of sales and marketing for CareOne. “Now that many are going back to work in an office and not virtually, they need to figure out a better plan for Mom or Dad.”
The Harmony Village Difference
At the same time, Albanese says, demand is skyrocketing for CareOne’s Harmony Village communities, which he calls “groundbreaking” in terms of memory care.
The communities are organized into six different “neighborhoods” for residents with varying stages of memory impairment. “What we’ve learned is that people perform to the best of their ability when they’re with peers of the same cognitive abilities,” Albanese says. “We’re not over-challenging or under-challenging our residents. We find success by meeting individuals at their current level of ability.”
Each Harmony Village facility is staffed with a dementia specialist—an individual who is highly trained in memory care and works to educate staff and develop a customized dementia plan of care highly-specific to each resident.
A Customized Care Plan
Mary Beth Rose, one of CareOne’s seasoned dementia specialists, works with senior dementia specialist Joan DiPaola to provide regular training to all CareOne employees—from the skilled nursing team to the hospitality staff—to ensure that all memory care patients receive consistent, patient-centered care.
Before a new resident is admitted to a Harmony Village facility, Rose or one of her counterparts sits down with the new resident and his or her family members to get to know them. “It’s so important for me to understand where they are in their dementia journey,” she says. Once she gains that understanding, Rose develops a customized care plan.
One example: “If someone is triggered by loud noises, part of the plan would be how to teach our caregivers how to positively approach that person when they react,” she says. “While we can’t control the progression of the disease, what we can control is giving people the joy, love and respect they deserve.”
“Having hands-on dementia specialists in every Harmony Village center has truly been a game-changer for CareOne and our residents,” Albanese says. “It’s why so many medical professionals refer residents to us, and it’s why we continue to grow at such a dramatic pace.”
Each Resident is a Person, Not a Diagnosis
Much of CareOne’s employee training, led by certified dementia specialists, focuses on the “positive approach to care” philosophy, a series of techniques developed by renowned dementia expert Teepa Snow, which focus on what people who have dementia can do, rather than what they can’t. The approach includes responding to a person’s change in cognition and abilities in a way that is not hurtful or offensive and recognizing that a person with dementia is doing the best they can.
One key piece of the approach: “Employees are taught to look at each resident as a person, rather than a diagnosis,” says Joan DiPaola, a senior dementia specialist at CareOne. Families are an important part of the puzzle, helping by creating a “life story” book featuring their loved one, so that CareOne staffers can get to know each resident personally from the moment they enter their new home.
And caregivers are taught to observe verbal cues when a resident becomes agitated. “Maybe they’re chilly, bored, overstimulated, or need something to eat or drink,” DiPaola says. “We approach the situation understanding that we need to calmly determine the person’s unmet needs in a friendly way,” by making eye contact and offering a handshake while being careful not to invade the person’s intimate space.
Another tenet of the positive approach: “Employees are taught to help residents honor and celebrate each of their remaining abilities at every possible turn,” DiPaola says. “At every stage of dementia, there are remaining abilities. Whether it’s the ability to feed oneself or smile and grasp our hand, it’s something worth celebrating. And we do that at CareOne every single day.”