EDITORIAL: Masonicare opens memory care unit

Specialty services designed to aid those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are likely to increase, as a recent initiative at Wallingford’s Masonicare shows.

Masonicare has just opened a memory care unit, designed to accommodate 17 residents and offer special programming. The rooms offer recreation, sensory stimulation and a sunroom.

“In our 127 years, we’ve continued to adapt and part of our strategy has been looking at areas where we see a shift in our industry and we’re able to adapt,” said J.P. Venoit, Masonicare chief executive, as reported in the Record-Journal.

Helping those with dementia requires a balanced approach that can seem contradictory. You want an experience to be relaxing but also stimulating. The memory care unit rooms are “super large,” so that residents “are not getting into each other’s space,” said Ann Collette, vice president of strategy at Masonicare. “Because dementia is a processing disorder, you don’t want to be walking into each other,” she said. “You want to be able to have your own space.”

At what was called a soft opening recently, Kristen Welton, Greater New Haven development manager for the Alzheimer’s Association of Connecticut, said the effort helps people “stay local, be in the community and be taken care of by people they trust.” Six million people live with Alzheimer’s in the U.S., she said, and there are 80,000 people living with Alzheimer’s in Connecticut.

There is a Snoezelen room, named for a company that sets up multi-sensory environments, including those for people with dementia. As the R-J’s Jessica Simms described, Masonicare’s Snoezelen room is to include “dark sensory tools, a heated chair for relaxation and tactile stimulation.”

“If no suitable activities are provided and people living with dementia have nothing to do, they might become increasingly isolated, frustrated, bored and unhappy,” says the company on its website.

One of the frustrating aspects of dementia is that there does not seem to be much that can be done to make a difference for sufferers. It’s most welcome to see efforts like those at Masonicare that show there are ways to respond and offer help.


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