The Power of ConnectedLIFE at Armbrook Village
Written by: Susan O’Donnell, ConnectedLIFE Program Specialist
Although I shouldn’t be, I am continually amazed at the power of human connection to alleviate or mitigate some of the challenging behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments. I have seen this over and over again in our Connected LIFE program, where a small peer group, comprised of residents with Mild Cognitive Impairment or related memory loss, is encouraged to be social, engage in failure-free activities, and enjoy graded, personalized therapeutic programming. My most recent “eye opening moment” came, as they usually do, when I was not expecting it!
Carol, 82, moved to Armbrook Village from her home in Springfield, MA where she had lived all her life. She was diagnosed with dementia and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and the family could not continue to care for her in her home. They were exhausted. When she came AV, she exhibited many OCD behaviors including pulling any pull-cord in the building in an effort to get her needs met. If she wanted the TV on, she pulled the cord. If she wanted to ask a question, she pulled the cord. If she wanted the lights turned on, she pulled the cord. You get the idea! She was also refusing staff’s help with personal care assistance and her hygiene was beginning to suffer. While the staff was patient and accommodating, we were all becoming tired and frustrated with Carol’s behavior, and Carol was not engaging with other residents.
Carol joined the ConnectedLIFE program upon moving to Armbrook. At first, she would come into the ConnectedLIFE group and sit apart, isolating herself from others. Our staff was persistent, and encouraged her participation in conversations and games at every program. Slowly we all started to see Carol come out of her shell. She started sharing stories about her life. As she began participating more, we worked with her family members to discover additional interests Carol had and built more programs into the daily schedule that we knew she’d be interested in.
Carol still sat along the outside edge of the group, but she was engaging in conversations and games more often, and even excelling in some of the activities! One day, I moved the chairs, where Carol had been choosing to sit, to another part of the building. That day, Carol arrived at the table with everyone else to actively participate in that morning’s program. She has been “at the table” ever since. She has also taken over the care of a friend who has vision issues, another sign of her active engagement in our overall community. She reads the dining room menu to her, helps her with playing cards, and greets her in the morning, encouraging her to come to our Ladies Group.
The “A-ha!” Moment
Carol and I had developed a routine. Every morning she’d wait for me in the lobby, and once I arrived she would accompany me up to the second floor where I put my lunch away and opened my office. We would then walk together to the Den where she’d she asked me to turn on the lights and put on the TV. In our ConnectedLIFE program, our goal is to help residents remain as independent as possible, so I had been working with Carol to show her where the light switches were located, how to turn them on, as well as how to turn on the television.
One particular morning, as I was opening up my office, I noticed that she went to the Den without me and turned the lights on by herself. Carol had struggled to break out of a dependent cycle, but with the help and support of a community, she was starting to do things by herself. Since that initial accomplishment, Carol has taken more responsibility for her personal appearance, reminding me when she has a hair appointment at the salon.
Carol is becoming a bigger part of this community, taking on more responsibility for her world and building self confidence. She is living her best life. This is why my job is so rewarding. Every person who moves into our community has a story. The excitement is in discovering how to support them to be their best!