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Memory care residents require a different approach

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Activities assistant Mandy Blackmon and Norma Sutton, a resident in memory care, arrange some silk tulips.[/caption]

As anyone who works with people with dementia knows, you’ve got to know how to enter their world. For more than three years, that’s what Mandy Blackmon has learned to do as the activities assistant for our memory care neighborhood.

It’s Mandy’s job to plan activities for our memory care residents and discover what they enjoy or respond to. That can be difficult for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, so Mandy often speaks with family members to learn about hobbies, music and other things their loved ones have enjoyed in the past.

“I have felt at home there from day one,” Mandy said. “It’s not for everybody. I have always felt like it’s a joy and a challenge to try to tap into the interests of residents.”

Before coming to Farmington Presbyterian Manor, Mandy had never worked in long-term care. But she had always wanted to work with seniors. Now, she said, she loves to hear residents tell her stories about growing up, or about their families, and to watch them light up when they do.

Group activities can be challenging for people with dementia, so often Mandy and the nursing staff are participating with just one or two residents at a time. They might listen to music or do manicures. Two women love to paint pictures. When it’s warm outside, they can work in the garden, shuck corn, snap beans and plant flowers.

“Nobody wants to think their loved one is just put in a chair and left to sit there all day. I want to let them know they still have so much worth and goodness,” Mandy said.

The residents become like a family of their own, and Mandy said sometimes their favorite thing is to have coffee together and bring out their own family photos to share. There are magazines with stories from the 1950s and ‘60s that serve as conversation starters, too. Music also reaches many residents when words and actions cannot. A woman visits regularly to play piano for them, and many will start singing along to old songs they recognize.

The memory care staff is like a family, too, Mandy said. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I am proud to be a part of that team. Seeing the compassion and the love our aides and nurses have for them is awesome.”

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