Special Memories

Social activities, sensitive care routine for pair with dementia.

Three years ago, Brenda George noticed that her mother, Martha Ellis, was not as mentally sharp as she used to be. Retired and living alone, Martha was no longer keeping up with her day-to-day needs or her medication schedule.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Brenda (standing) says Grace Manor is home to Virginia (right), Martha and Martha’s dog, Brisa.

“I could tell my mom was having memory issues,” relates Brenda. “She wasn’t always taking her medication as prescribed. We decided it was also best for her to stop driving, as it was becoming a challenge keeping up with her whereabouts.”
After some neurological testing, Martha was diagnosed with the early onset of dementia. Brenda and her family decided to simplify her life from the day-to-day struggles and move her into a memory care facility.
In May 2015, Brenda’s mother moved into Grace Manor Port Orange, an assisted living and memory care community with a reputation for personal attention. Grace Manor provides specialized care for residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
“I chose Grace Manor for my Mom because it was smaller than the other facilities in the area, and the way it’s set up, it’s not so overwhelming for the residents,” offers Brenda. “I didn’t want my mother to get lost in the shuffle of a larger facility. I also believed Mom would get more attention there than she would get elsewhere.
“Another important factor affecting our decision was that Grace Manor allowed my mother to keep her dog, a Shih Tzu named Brisa, there with her. She’s had that dog for about twelve years.”
Last year, Brenda faced the same decision with her husband’s mother, Virginia George. In April, Brenda and her husband recognized Virginia was having more difficulty with her memory and her mobility. She needed the help of a walker to get around. They tried moving Virginia in with them, but they were concerned about leaving her alone all day while they both worked.
“Virginia, who is ninety-one, also has dementia,” states Brenda. “Because my mom was already at Grace Manor, and was happy with the facility, we moved Virginia in as well in December 2017.
“My mother showed Virginia around when she first got there. It was comforting for Virginia to have a familiar face. Virginia really fits as the typical memory care resident. Although she’s not as talkative and sociable as my mother is, Virginia enjoys the activities and company of others.”

A Personal Touch

Grace Manor has a team of specially trained resident assistants dedicated to residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. They use methods to align themselves with whatever the resident is experiencing in the moment. The goal is to help the resident struggling with the effects of dementia to feel reassured, calm and not so alone.
“Grace Manor is a step between our resident’s family home and a full-time nursing facility,” describes Danielle Ashby, president of Grace Manor. “We’re here for individuals with memory issues who need specialized care and can no longer be at home. We provide the caring assistance they require so they can live as independently as possible.”
Grace Manor also has a life-enrichment program for its memory care residents. The program offers specific activities that cater to those with cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. As part of the program, the staff works with residents on a variety of sensory activities.
A personal touch for residents with memory issues is the shadow boxes they have displayed outside their suites. The memory boxes are filled with photos and mementos that have personal significance for the resident. For residents with memory impairments, the boxes also help them locate their suites.
The memory boxes not only help the residents, they also give the staff a wider perspective about the people they are caring for.
“The memory boxes let the staff know that at one time the resident was a doctor, a lawyer, a police officer, a very important mother to young children,” notes Danielle. “We want to remember to see them as more than just our residents. The staff gets a little bit of insight about who they are and the things they accomplished when they were younger.
“We ask the family to post or provide pictures of the residents and their family members. We have a lot of people with wedding photos and pictures of their kids. It’s a memory box, so people include the things that mean something to them. One man has a medal from his time in the Army in his.”

Never Alone

Brenda notes that at first, moving into Grace Manor was a difficult transition for Martha. It wasn’t long, though, before she accepted that she was there because of her dementia and made herself at home.
“After about six months, she realized she loved it there,” offers Brenda. “My mom started thriving and became even more social. Now, she enjoys conversations with the staff. People think she works there because she blends in. She even helps out on occasion by sometimes leading the activities.
“My mother’s dog Brisa, who lives at Grace Manor with her, has a routine. Every morning at nine o’clock, my Mom and Brisa come out to do exercises. The dog has to go around and greet each resident, then they can start their activity. It’s actually kind of cute. The other residents love her.”

“Virginia does much better with people around her, and at Grace Manor, she’s never alone.” – Brenda

When Virginia first got to Grace Manor, the staff assigned her to a table where a group of six women eat their meals. Virginia quickly bonded with the women, and they’ve become familiar friends.
“My mother-in-law seems very comfortable with them,” says Brenda. “The ladies really don’t carry on much conversation, but Virginia knows she sits with them. Even if she doesn’t participate in activities, she still sits with the group.”
At Grace Manor, Virginia undergoes physical therapy to strengthen her body and improve her mobility. Unlike Martha, Virginia needs assistance with some activities of daily living including bathing and dressing. She receives that personalized care from the staff at Grace Manor.
“Virginia does much better with people around her, and at Grace Manor, she’s never alone,” comments Brenda. “At Grace Manor, she gets the attention she needs, and she’s doing really well there. They both are.”
Brenda says she is very pleased with the treatment and services provided at Grace Manor. She also feels fortunate that her mother has been there since 2015 and has never considered moving anywhere else. She considers that a big plus.
“It’s the same with Virginia,” she notes. “There are no thoughts of moving her unless she gets to the point where she needs even more care. But then again, Grace Manor has the advanced memory care facility, so we could move her over to the other side if it ever comes down to that.
“We’re just very happy we chose Grace Manor Port Orange.”

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