WesleyLife Best in Class Memory Support Services

Creating Best-in-Class Memory Support Services to Enhance Quality of Life

Resident and WesleyLife caregiverAccording to the Alzheimer’s Association, 69,000 Iowans age 65 and older were living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. By 2025, that number is expected to reach 77,000—with an estimated 78 percent of people in long-term care having some level of cognitive impairment.

As a leader in health and well-being services for older persons throughout Iowa, WesleyLife launched an initiative to define, develop and implement a best-in-class memory support program in late 2012.

“We knew even before starting, the passion and dedication of team members working with memory support residents was amazing,” says Nancy VanWyk, RN, and certified dementia practitioner at Hearthstone.

One important result of the initiative was a commitment to finding new ways to ease distress for residents experiencing dementia. While psychoactive medications are widely used in the U.S. to manage these behaviors, research shows these drugs can have major side effects, including drowsiness and decreased alertness. For many, drugs may set off a domino effect. People who sleep more tend to have less physical activity and fewer social interactions, which leads to a loss of independence and human contact. Drug-related dizziness and confusion can also create balance issues, including falls. The combination of increased falls, social withdrawal and decreased ability to manage daily living activities could even lead a person to require more care.

“As a result of our improvement efforts, we’ve seen a decrease in the use of psychoactive drugs among memory support residents, and we’re seeing an increase in physical activity among those residents,” says Susan Johnson, WesleyLife director of Process Improvement and co-facilitator of the group. “This is extremely important as it restores independence and maintains—or even improves—the mind, body and spirit of residents, ultimately enhancing their daily life and relationships with family and friends.”

This initiative involved more than 30 team members representing all seven WesleyLife communities working together to agree on improvement opportunities. The group identified nine areas of opportunity to enhance the quality of life of older persons with memory loss. Some of the recommendations included: increasing educational opportunities for team members, physicians and general public;increasing volunteer engagement with residents; and creating stimulating brain fitness programming.

The recommendations were announced in July 2013 and have been implemented in all WesleyLife communities. Johnson, and Judy Palko, group co-facilitator and WesleyLife director of Organizational Learning, presented on the journey to best-in-class memory care at the LeadingAge annual conference in Nashville, Tenn., in October 2014 and at the LeadingAge Iowa spring conference.


Brain Health Program Expands Statewide

Dakim Brain FitnessAs part of the initiative, WesleyLife sought opportunities to increase stimulating brain fitness programming. WesleyLife was awarded a Quality Improvement Initiative grant from the Iowa Department of Human Services, Iowa Medicaid Enterprise to expand the use of Dakim BrainFitness from one WesleyLife community to all seven.

Dakim BrainFitness is a scientifically based, structured brain-training program that cross-trains the brain in six essential cognitive domains to improve memory now and protect brain health long-term. It can help revitalize mental acuity and has been shown in a clinical trial to improve memory and strengthen attention, focus and concentration.

While the Dakim technology is being warmly received by residents and team members, a small unexpected and positive surprise has been the increased participation in other social programs by residents.

“What we’ve witnessed at The Village is residents who typically didn’t join in conversation or social programming before using Dakim are now participating in other programming,” says Gay Puthoff, Resident Life coordinator at The Village. “Dakim also gives us another way to learn about the resident and connect with him or her.”

Visit the Dakim website for more information about this technology.   


Excellence in Care Dementia Program of Distinction Status

Excellence in care logoIn July 2015, The Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) announced that Heritage House, a WesleyLife Community for Healthy Living located in Atlantic, Iowa, had achieved AFA’s “Excellence in Care® Dementia Program of Distinction” status for its specialized memory care program. Heritage House was the first organization in Iowa to achieve this prestigious status.

In September 2015, The Cottages of Hearthstone in Pella, also received its Excellence in Care Dementia Program of Distinction status. 

Excellence in Care is the first national program involving comprehensive standards, onsite evaluation and consultation to promote continual performance improvement for dementia care settings, such as assisted living and skilled nursing facilities, adult day centers and adult day healthcare programs, and continuum of care residential communities.