For individuals with a diagnosis of dementia, the Village at Summerville has created a small neighborhood specifically designed to offer support while encouraging them to maintain their independence.
“Evergreen House was the first one of its kind in the United States,” said Ashley Edwards, residential sales counselor at The Village at Summerville.
Evergreen House is a 19,600-square-foot neighborhood that provides care and services for two dozen dementia residents who are continuing to live their best lives. This is because the community uses the Montessori for Aging and Dementia Philosophy: respect the person; observe in order to learn about the person; encourage independence; provide meaningful work; and remember that learning and engagement can occur anywhere.
Evergreen House is staffed with care partners trained in the Montessori philosophy for dementia care. Care partners collect a thorough history residentd and collaborate with them and their family members to identify roles that will provide meaningful engagement. They also practice with residents to help them relearn previous life roles as well as learn new roles they may enjoy.
Evergreen House is not a refurbished facility. It was designed from the ground up with the purpose of providing an independent and safe life to those diagnosed with dementia. It features things like activity nooks for residents to pursue or learn hobbies; colors, finishes, art and signage to help residents find their way; and a secure courtyard for outdoor experiences.
There are 24 private rooms, each with a private bathroom. The bathroom door is clearly marked and the floor is textured to prevent slipping.
“During our first year, we had minimal falls in the bathrooms because of the way they are designed,” said Edwards. “The bathrooms are designed so there is no shine or sheen in them,”
The rooms are in color-coded pods with large signs next to the 36-inch-wide door with the resident’s name and picture on it.
Jennifer Brush, MA, CCC/SLP, worked in conjunction with Presbyterian Communities of South Carolina and McMillan Pazdan and Smith Architecture. Brush is the only trainer of trainers in the United States certified by the Association of Montessori for Montessori for Aging and Dementia and one of two trainers in the world with this expertise.
“Evergreen House is so well designed and operated that it won the Innovation of the Year Award through LeadingAge,” said Edwards. It has also been presented as the gold standard for memory support design at national and international events.
Evergreen House also is designed so residents enjoy their time there. Besides the activity nooks, the large kitchen allows residents to help in the preparation of meals. If they are interested in gardening, they can help maintain the outdoor gardens behind the house. The more they are engaged in life, the better it will help them hold onto their physical and cognitive functioning.
Should the situation change, a resident of Evergreen House get first priority to move to higher-level care at The Village at Summerville.
“We want to offer them the best care at whatever their stage of life is,” said Edwards.
She said the problem with many people is that they wait until it is too late, and they wind up having to bypass memory care, which could have extended their years of living relatively independently.
“Ideally, someone should start making a care plan when they start seeing the signs of someone they care for forgetting,” said Edwards.
To learn more, visit prescommunities.org.
James Rada Jr.