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Thanks to advances in screening and awareness, dementia is being diagnosed earlier and earlier. Early diagnosis is crucial to preparation, giving the older adult time to have a say in their current and future care. Early diagnosis can also give the family time to plan and save for what is to come, as well as to find support and resources that will make the next years more manageable.

Early diagnosis, whether it’s Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or another type of dementia, also creates many feelings of anxiety, sadness, and general worry. Though it can often be a relief to finally know what is causing the forgetfulness or trouble with daily tasks, it is still certainly a shock to hear that you or your loved one has dementia.

Part of planning for the future includes senior living. A senior community offers benefits such as socialization and easy access to assistance from caregivers. However, those who are living through the early stages of dementia can feel displaced. Assisted living can feel too big, while dementia care can feel too restricting.

The Challenge of Early Stage Dementia Living Options

In Illinois, there are major types of senior living licenses: skilled nursing, assisted living, dementia care, and independent living. Unfortunately, older adults living through the early stages of dementia can feel like they don’t quite fit into any of these categories.

Assisted living is designed to provide access to caregivers and support such as medication management or help with personal care tasks. Seniors with early stage dementia who live in assisted living communities can thrive, certainly, but more often than not tend to isolate themselves in their apartments. The earlier stages of dementia can be troubling in that the person knows they are forgetting, which can cause feelings of embarrassment or self-consciousness. These feelings lead to increased isolation, which only accelerates the disease process.

Dementia care communities are designed to provide structure, safety, and positive interactions for people with mid- to late-stage dementia. Older adults with early stage dementia do not need such intense care and routine. They can end up isolating themselves because they feel depressed at seeing their disease, in later stages, in other residents.

Fortunately, there is an “in the middle” solution available at select exceptional care communities.

Learn how to Evaluate the Right Senior Living Community for You and Your  Families' Needs in Our E-Book

An “In the Middle” Solution

At Arbor Terrace Naperville, the Bridges program provides an ideal solution for residents who are living with early stage dementia. The program was designed after employees noticed the challenges residents faced while living in assisted living or dementia care. Because the Arbor Company has more than 30 years of experience working with seniors with dementia and a commitment to ongoing education, developing a specialized neighborhood was the next logical step.

The Bridges neighborhood at Arbor Terrace Naperville gives residents the best of assisted living and dementia care, but with programming and environmental details that make life a bit easier, calmer, and less stimulating. For example, the Bridges program offers residents their own spacious and beautiful apartment similar to those found in assisted living, but in a smaller environment and with homelike nooks that are built to be secure and relaxing.

Staff in the Bridges neighborhood are just as committed to Arbor’s quest to foster deep connections, but are also specially trained in dementia progression. They learn about all stages of the disease, including the unique challenges that can pop up in the early stages of dementia. Then, they are trained in how to develop personalized interventions for each resident that will increase self-esteem and feelings of self-worth.

The Bridges program is rooted in therapeutic activities. Residents enjoy a calendar of events, lectures, and programs designed to enhance overall health and independence. There are cognition-boosting activities such as trivia and reminiscing paired with physical exercises such as yoga or walking, as well as opportunities for creative expression, spiritual programs, and trips around the western suburbs, all designed to enhance the lives of residents.

Finding Your Perfect Option

If you or your loved one is in the early stages of dementia, now is the time to begin planning for safety, care, and quality of life. Senior living is an excellent option, because it provides for each of those needs. However, be sure to choose a community that can care for you or your loved one both now and in the future.

Seniors living with dementia thrive with routine. Too many moves from community to community can result in additional and unnecessary trauma and confusion. Avoid this by choosing a community that offers multiple options for dementia care, including an “in between” solution to bridge the gap between assisted living and dementia care. You can make a more confident decision by starting with our free downloadable guide, “Finding a Safe and Comfortable Senior Living Community.”

The Bridges neighborhood is innovative, person centered, and the perfect solution for seniors living with early stage dementia or MCI. We would love the chance to show it to you in action. Call our Arbor Terrace Naperville team today to schedule your personalized tour.

finding a safe and comfortable senior living community

Renee Rzeszutko

About the Author: Renee Rzeszutko

Renee has worked for more than the last decade directly serving the senior population. Known for her open door policies and "I work for you" attitude, she is always available to residents, family members, and staff. Whether you have a question or concern or just need to chat, she will greet you will a warm smile and a compassionate heart. Renee makes her home in Huntley and enjoys spending time with her husband and college-aged children.

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