Memory Care at First & Main
As our community grows, so do the needs of our Memory Care programming. More residents means more needs to be met, and an even wider range of likes and dislikes. Into this need steps Heather Wiersum, our new Memory Care Manager, who builds personal relationships with our residents in order to develop a program that provides the highest quality of life for each person.
Heather, who has a degree in Recreation from Calvin College, is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS), and has an MBA in Healthcare Management and Human Resources, comes to us with 8 years of professional experience in Memory Care. She also has personal experience, working with her own grandparents to develop memory care strategies that work.
Her best strategy? Getting to know her audience. “Every resident is different, and their needs change on a daily basis,” she said. “We like to know our residents’ stories so that we can tailor activities or event themes to pique their interests.” Heather and her team of Care Specialists spend 1 on 1 time with each resident, learning about their histories and leisure backgrounds in order to create an activity plan that works.
“Routine is critical,” Heather mentioned. “Familiarity with staff and a regular schedule reduces agitation for the residents. At the same time, we need to be flexible because something that worked yesterday might not work today. You always need a backup plan. Actually, you need two backup plans.”
Since coming on board the First & Main team, Heather has implemented regular activities that all residents, not just Memory Care, enjoy and look forward to. Creative Movement is a themed monthly activity that provides mental and physical exercise for the residents. They’re encouraged to act a little silly and use their imagination doing activities like using hula hoops to simulate driving their favorite cars, and going through a “car wash” made of fabric and swim noodles.
Wednesday bus outings provide leisure rides for the Memory Care residents. Some days they visit an area attraction, and other days, depending on the mood, they’re just along for the ride, enjoying a change in scenery.
The Sun Room on the Memory Care floor is also used for activities. It provides a peaceful, calming space where residents can feel relaxed and safe. Heather and care staff will reminisce with the residents there, encouraging them to share stories of their younger days and providing prompts that utilize their long-term memory to recall historical events or cultural references from their youth.
Additionally, pet therapy is a favorite at First & Main for most residents. “Petting and spending time with an animal provides a sense of peace for the residents, and gets them talking about pets they had when they were younger,” Heather said.
Heather is excited for the future at First & Main. The potential to grow her program and continue to tailor it to the specific needs of Memory Care is a challenge she looks forward to. “Quality of life means something different for each resident every day,” she said. “But if I can get them to smile, I know it’s been a successful day.”