Susan Robbins, Regional Director of Dementia Training for The Arbor Company, joins us to discuss Arbor's Bridges program and how these special neighborhoods inside our communities allow residents with early-stage dementia to maintain their dignity while living life to the fullest.

Video Transcript

- Hello everyone and welcome in to Senior Living Live. My name is Melissa as always I hope you are having a fantastic day today. Well, the Arbor Company will be releasing an ebook very soon that describes an option for your loved ones or for yourself and well, places you can turn to in the early stages of dementia, which is so important and so key. And one option that we provide at the Arbor Company is a neighborhood called Bridges. Here today to help explain this neighborhood what it's all about, the kind of care it entails as our very own Susan Robbins. Susan you had a helping hand in this ebook that will be coming out very soon. You are the perfect person for this interview. How are you doing today?

- Doing really good. Thank you for asking. Yes, it's been a pleasure working on this ebook and providing the steps that help people make good decisions for their loved ones living with dementia.

- Yeah, just another resource and another option and that is why we do these videos, right? So first and foremost, Susan we know a lot of our viewers are familiar with you but for those who are not tell us about yourself and your background.

- Well, I have been with the Arbor Company for 12 years and have had the opportunity to grow and learn and expand my knowledge on dementia. And I'm always here to support not only our caregivers but all of our staff of The Arbor Company to help train and help them have the tools to interact and make our residents days pleasant and enjoyable so that they get the most out of each day. And I'm all also here to help support families and loved ones of people living with dementia.

- And you do it well and you help our viewers as well. So we thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with the rest of us. You've been able to teach even myself a thing or two about how to have a little bit more passion be more passion... Have more empathy if you will, for somebody who is maybe not, you're not quite in the shoes that they are, but some of your... The things that you have to say about someone living with dementia is very eye opening and we appreciate your knowledge on that end. So when it comes to this particular program, what is Bridges, what does it mean, What kind of care is offered in this particular neighborhood?

- Well, Bridges is a unique neighborhood that allows people in the early stages of dementia to not only maintain their dignity, but find enjoy in the simple things in life. As you progress through dementia, you need more support but our Bridges Neighborhood, it's a point in dementia that you're not aware that you need help and support. So it takes really skilled techniques to make sure that somebody feels successful throughout the day. And also they're with their cognitive peers because I'm not ready for memory care because I can still carry on a conversation now it may be the same story repeated over and over again. But my cognitive peers are actually gonna respond to my story. And this gives that unique opportunity to just be yourself and have people embrace you for being yourself and not judge you.

- And mentioning those cognitive peers that comes up so often in our conversations about dementia and it is so important. And that's something that we may not have known about 20 years ago. And just over the course of time and gaining knowledge you're able to share that with our viewers. So why was this particular program created and really who is it created for? So if somebody's watching this today, they have a an elderly parent, what should they be looking for?

- So well, the why, was we found this overwhelming need for residents that the assisted living neighborhood was just too overwhelming, it was too big. And I kind of feeling emotionally lost. I still may be able to find things and get to things but it's a struggle and it creates anxieties that maybe I express out loud, or maybe I don't. So we needed a smaller more redirected neighborhood that focuses on those subtle reminders to do things but making people feel successful. And we talk about the cognitive peers when I live in assisted living and I'm repeating my stories or maybe my ability to understand somebody else's story and I'm asking repetitive questions. The people in the very early stages of dementia because they don't have a filter may not be so kind to me. And are unaware but then I can't process it and it escalates and then nobody benefits. So if I'm in environment where my be behaviors mirror the other people living with dementia's behaviors we can all be successful and feel, feel successful. More important is we lose some of our skill sets with dementia but your feelings and emotions never go away, no matter where you are in the stage. And this neighborhood allows you in Bridges, to feel successful because you're set up for success, with the routines that are set up and your friends, are your friends that you can enjoy their company too.

- Excellent point Susan. Great job. Yeah, I love that. So when we look at the care specifically what are the benefits in Bridges versus assisted living, or a full memory care neighborhood? How can we discern the differences between all of those?

- Okay, well in assisted living, I am still functioning I just may need some general reminders, I may need some physical help with things but when I need physical help with things I understand why you're helping me. I may not like it that I need somebody in my apartment when I'm taking a shower to make sure that I'm safe, but I actually feel safer because you're there, in case of a fall. The Bridges staff are trained to be there but less intrusive. Meaning validate, yes I know you don't need to be here but, so you step back a little bit and you help without making them feel that you're there to help them. And that's kinda that difference because in Bridges it's that middle stage of dementia, the early to middle stage, I no longer know what deficits I have. I'm not aware that I don't have good balance in the shower anymore so it doesn't make any sense I can do it myself. One of the biggest things you'll hear in memory care is I can do it myself I don't need any help. And can do it but not necessarily safely are complete a task I may forget to button shirt and come out with it unbuttoned we can easily redirect and do that. And I know people are thinking, well my mother would never do that, no she wouldn't, but with the disease, I may get distracted by something else. And then I can't complete it. And memory care needs complete assistance and step by step queuing to do things. So it's a matter of how much hands are on both visually and physically somebody needs.

- So someone who is watching now can kinda figure out where is my mom, where is my dad? In terms of what you just said and what kind of help that could make them successful as you said, so great job pointing out the differences between those neighborhoods. So going back to the ebook we've got a lot of information already out in this this interview already today but what can somebody find when they log in and they look for that ebook once it's released. what will they find helpful within it?

- Well, there's tips and it's broken down into who belongs in the Bridges Neighborhood, what kind of help we're gonna provide and the different things, different areas, how do you get me engaged, how do you help me with my day to day structure? And one of the biggest things that we find is that structure of the day is very important and creating those deep connections. We find that people living with dementia, I may have been a gardener all my life but the difference is, did I garden because I enjoyed getting out, and getting my hands dirty? Or did I enjoy growing flowers so that I could give them to my neighbors, or maybe I belonged to The Bridge Club and what I really liked was the social part of it, but the, excuse me, The Garden Club but what I really liked was the social part of it. Or maybe I was the president of The Garden Club, which means I like to be in control of things. So this is gonna kinda help you break down some of those things and dig deeper into why somebody did certain things that they did. And that's how you can help them find joy in these things. And also, whether it's best for them to have skilled people around them providing that care and then you can enjoy your visits with somebody living with dementia.

- Yeah, these are all things that you've taught Arbor staff members how to incorporate every single day 'cause those are the little things that can be big, can be breakthroughs to somebody who may be declining on their own at home and they get an environment where people know what they're doing and it just makes all the difference in the world. And that's why that ebook has been created and that's why you were here today. Susan, thank you so much again for sharing your knowledge with us.

- Thank you. It's been a pleasure.

- Now for more information about our Bridges Neighborhood or to find out maybe view one of Susan's many webinars about dementia in this topic, please head on over to our website, You can also check for that ebook, All About Bridges. As always we thank you so much for being a part of Senior Living Live. Have a great day, everybody.

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