The Happiness Letter
In July of 2003, The Gardens at Park Balboa opened Safe Haven, with the goal of providing memory care residents a life of well-being and contentment. Despite the challenges brought on by cognitive and physical decline, the burdens of stress and anxiety and heavy demands on family caregivers, research has shown that many of those diagnosed with memory impairment can live happy lives with the proper care practices. This is the foundation for our innovative HAPPINESS Program. We aim to provide dignity in the aging process even when mental health is compromised. It is not enough that we attend to the resident’s physical care but that we also focus on understanding their individual needs. When this is done well we are able to unite the resident with their deepest and happiest memories and create an environment that allows them to flourish. With this in mind, we have created a culture that brings opportunities for H.A.P.P.I.N.E.S.S.:
> H – Health—Promoting physical and mental vitality through movement and nutrition.
> A – Activity—Providing physical movement designed to help cardiovascular health, to maintain muscular strength and to retain flexibility.
> P – Purpose—Providing a sense of value and focus through individual and group activities that foster life skills. Relating to residents’ careers, hobbies and volunteerism to understand their personal sense of purpose.
> P – Pleasures—Learning passions and past associations that give pleasure and using that knowledge to promote enjoyment and engender a familiar sense of belonging.
> I – Indulgence—Indulging residents in the small things that provide great pleasure and joy throughout the day, like favorite foods, soothing touch and familiar music.
> N – Nature—Connecting residents with nature by encouraging participation in outdoor activities that bring the joy and stimulation of the natural world.
> E – Emotion—Connecting and engaging with residents’ emotions through touch, smiles, hugs and pleasant interactions. All intended to be mindful of sensitivities and to mitigate stress.
> S – Social—Hosting dances, outings, clubs and other social events that enhance a sense of community, encourage interactions with others, and promote personal connections.
> S – Spiritual—Supporting spiritual views of residents and families. Celebrating the higher power of each day simply by enjoying life’s offerings.
To successfully offer an appropriate and meaningful program that meets the needs of our residents, we gather information telling us exactly where the new resident is on a cognitive level. This is done through a test called the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE,) a widely used tool that determines cognitive function among the elderly. Once this status is correctly determined, we find that we can replace feelings of hopelessness and helplessness with a positive sense of self through the art of engagement.
In the HAPPINESS Program we partner with the resident, their family and their friends to discover as much as possible about their whole life prior to The Gardens. We coordinate with the Primary Care Physician in learning their health history and with the care staff in delivering individualized care. All staff are certified Memory Care Experts and have received training in many specialized topics, such as; The Principles and Social Role of Valorization; Devaluation; Ageism and additional hours of Dementia Training. An extensive discovery phase is conducted before the resident arrives, in order to create an atmosphere of calm and smooth transition which includes: room and memory box preparation, a resident précis and a thorough introduction to the staff. In order to facilitate a smooth transition to their new home, we have a Transition Package that assures a constant Personal Companion stays by the new resident’s side through the move-in process. Included in the Transition Package are observational management tools known as Behavior Mapping and Behavior Intervention, which are conducted by the Care Companion and the Nurse/Med Tech.
Engagement is the heart and soul of HAPPINESS, a means of social interaction that promotes a sense of value and purpose. Every resident is entitled to feel pride and pleasure in the life that they lead and we are very proud of our ability to provide this level of excellent care for the memory impaired at The Gardens at Park Balboa.