by Diane Byrne
There is a growing understanding of what makes a successful environment for seniors living with memory impairment. The elements that can make a difference in the lives of those with dementia are not that complicated and can be encapsulated in two words – connectedness and a sense of home. The small-house model or cottage model has been found to be the most successful environment in providing that sense of home, connectedness, and ultimately, happiness. Juniper Communities has served as an innovator in pioneering the small-house model within their memory care communities. Juniper continues to believe that this model remains the gold standard in memory care.
Juniper has been well ahead of the trend as we have owned and operated two types of small house models for more than a decade. Two of our small-house models, Aurora and Louisville, both in Colorado, were purpose built by Juniper in 1999 and 2000 respectively, as part of our initiative to provide leading-edge care to residents living with memory impairments. These two communities include four small houses, each with 12 or 13 rooms, virtually all private, surrounding a town hall area. Each town hall provides destination locations consisting of multiple familiar spaces such as an office suite, game room, library, country store, and gymnasium, where residents from all houses can go for additional services or programs. In this model, where the houses are linked, all staff are readily available to assist if needed.
In both models, residents at Juniper’s communities live within a short walk to the living room, kitchen and dining areas. The environment is homelike; there are no nurses’ stations and no medication carts that block the hallways. Staff wear polo shirts, not scrubs, and are trained to engage residents in activities of daily living, as well as social and recreational activities. In both models, there are large, accessible and safe outdoor spaces surrounding the community.
Ultimately it is all about relationships. The small-house model of care becomes a true community for a group of seniors and staff. It focuses on nurturing the spirit of life, and its heart is found in the relationships that thrive there. Juniper’s goal via the small house model has always been and continues to be to serve as a place where seniors can receive assistance and support with activities of daily living and care, without the assistance and care becoming the focus of their life. And ultimately to provide the key elements to successful memory care – connectedness, home, and happiness!