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An estimated 5.6 million Americans ages 65 and older are living with dementia. Though this prevalent disease is associated with decreased independence and a fear of the unknown, a dementia diagnosis does not have to mean the end of a fulfilling life. The right senior living solution can ensure your loved one’s safety while enabling them to continue living a life of purpose and joy. 

If you’ve spent time looking into care for a loved one, you may already be familiar with some of your options when it comes to assisted living and memory care. But for many, assisted living is not quite enough, and memory care is too much. For these individuals, The Gardens at Eastside is proud to offer its Bridges program, a high-support environment for seniors that serves as a unique transition neighborhood in the Arbor Terrace community. Is it right for your loved one? Here’s what you need to know.

Comparing Assisted Living to Memory Care

First, it is important to understand the differences between assisted living and memory care. Many people think that “assisted living” is a synonym for “nursing home,” and that an assisted living community encompasses all levels of senior care. However, there are many distinct differences between assisted living and memory care.

Assisted living is ideal for seniors who are still mostly independent. Residents receive minimal assistance with some tasks of daily living such as cooking and cleaning, and medication management is available. There are many opportunities for residents to socialize with each other, including shared mealtimes, scheduled entertainment, and exercise programs. Dedicated staff are always available to provide programming, schedule social outings, or just have a friendly chat.

Memory care neighborhoods often exist on the same campus as assisted living neighborhoods, but in a separate area with added security measures and additional support. Residents of memory care neighborhoods tend to need more structure and routine, so staff members make sure that the same things happen at the same time each day. Memory care staff take a proactive approach to social engagement to keep residents from feeling lonely and isolated, and programming is designed specifically for those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

The Beginning of Bridges

Bridges began as a program within Arbor’s assisted living communities. As some assisted living residents began to develop dementia, their needs began to shift; they needed a bit more support than their peers in assisted living, but were still independent enough for memory care to be too restrictive. Recognizing a need, Arbor developed a transition stage between assisted living and memory care and called it the Bridges program. 

The early Bridges program involved additional layers of security and routine, dedicated care staff, and extra assistance during meals. It quickly became evident that the program was working, and Arbor started looking for ways to make it work even better. Many Arbor communities, including The Gardens at Eastside, are now home to these special communities, which allow seniors in the early stages of dementia to get the care they need without being in a needlessly restrictive environment. 

Benefits of Bridges Neighborhoods

In many ways, Bridges neighborhoods are very similar to assisted living neighborhoods. Residents still share common spaces and social dining experiences, and personal living spaces are still comfortable and customizable. However, because people living with early dementia tend to begin to have trouble navigating larger areas, these spaces exist at a smaller scale. Residents enjoy the same amenities and social connections they did in assisted living, but in a slightly more manageable environment, allowing them to remain as autonomous as possible for as long as possible.

Additionally, programming is more structured and more therapeutic in Bridges communities than in assisted living. Staff plan activities that focus on strengthening cognitive abilities and offer programming that helps residents maintain their independence and participate in things they enjoy. A dedicated Bridges engagement director works to adapt activities to the pace and style their residents need so that transitioning from assisted living to Bridges isn’t a cutoff; no one has to give up a long-beloved hobby before they have to. For example, if a resident is a lifelong gardener and is still able to participate in gardening activities, they will have the opportunity to continue to do so as long as they are benefiting from it. 

Perhaps the most comforting element of Bridges neighborhoods for residents is being among peers at similar levels of ability. No one wants to feel like they’re the only one struggling, and Bridges allows residents to reject that feeling and keep a sense of community. When everyone needs just a little extra help with dining, for example, in an environment in which that help is provided across the board, everyone maintains a sense of dignity and self-respect. 

Bridges at The Gardens

Staff members at every Arbor community pride themselves on a relationship-centered approach to care, and those connections are especially emphasized in Bridges neighborhoods. Bridges residents benefit from routinely seeing familiar faces and interacting with people they’re comfortable with — and in turn, our staff greatly benefits from the relationships we build with your loved ones. 

If you’re interested in learning more about this great option between assisted living and memory care and seeing how your loved one can thrive in a Bridges community in Greenville, come visit us at The Gardens at Eastside. We are always ready to offer advice or simply an empathetic ear as you and your family navigate life’s transitions. 

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Jane Ford

About the Author: Jane Ford

I am originally from Charleston, SC, but our family have called the Upstate home since 1983. After a career in the hospitality industry, in 1997 my heart found a new passion in working with our senior population. I joined The Gardens team in January 2005 and I truly love working with this amazing team. I strive to make a difference in the lives of our residents and staff, but they are the ones who make a difference in mine.

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