The good news is that according to a study published in January 2017 by Dr. Kenneth M. Langa in the Journal of the American Medical Association, dementia in Americans 65 and older is on the decline.

The good news is that according to a study published in January 2017 by Dr. Kenneth M. Langa in the Journal of the American Medical Association, dementia in Americans 65 and older is on the decline. The bad news is that despite the drop in numbers, dementia still affects between 4 million and 5 million Americans.

Dementia is a commonly used term for a set of symptoms that affect cognitive function. These symptoms often include impaired thinking, difficulty with concentration and problem solving and the big kahuna — memory loss.

Opened in September 2018, The Crossings at West Ashley is a vibrant new community offering a full spectrum of senior living options. One of these options is a neighborhood called Harmony Square, which addresses the specialized needs of individuals suffering with memory issues, in a secure environment. Here, residents are nurtured, encouraged and even loved by a staff focused on keeping residents “in the present,” living in the joy of the moment.

“We strive to keep our residents in touch with the world around them and the life they know,” offered Robin Barich, corporate director of marketing at Harmony Senior Services. For instance, art and music therapy enrich the daily lives of residents, engaging them in hands-on activities. Not only is pet therapy offered, but residents may actually bring their small pet to live with them.

Barich went on to describe another strategy Harmony Square employs to help residents remain engaged and interactive: “We pair residents with each other. We identify residents who are compatible, whose personality traits are complementary. One person might be extremely organized, while someone else might be more nurturing. We all have our strengths. We try to identify each person’s strong suit and encourage them to take care of each other, facilitating friendships.”

“We’ve found that most memory-care residents are more comfortable in the presence of another person,” he added.

Answering that need, some of the 33 private rooms dedicated to memory care include a spacious companion suite.

“Waking up not knowing where you are – and alone – can be extremely disconcerting. Just hearing another person breathe can be comforting to someone suffering from dementia,” Barich said.

So how do you determine if you’ve simply misplaced the car keys – for the third time this week – or if your forgetfulness is a sign of a more acute problem?

“Developing and living with dementia is a gradual process,” Barich explained. “Not only is it hard on the person suffering with the symptoms, it’s hard on the family. It’s not uncommon for the health of the caregiver, typically an older spouse, to decline.”

“Identifying the symptoms early can help slow their progress,” she concluded. “We have a team of health care professionals who can assess a potential resident and help formulate a plan of action.”

Harmony Square offers a hopeful, comforting solution in a state-of-the-art environment, both for residents and their families.

By Mimi Wood

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