Newsletter | November 18, 2020
Altenheim Shurmer Place
Step Inside Shurmer Place Memory Assisted Living
Comfort, compassion and safety. If you have a loved one with dementia, chances are these three things are a part of every decision you make regarding their care. They’re also what create a very special living environment for residents at Shurmer Place Memory Assisted Living: from individualized programming to personalized care to creative ideas that maximize socialization, even during COVID-19.
Meet the heart of Shurmer Place Memory Assisted Living: Resident Director Beth Seese
Her staff calls her “Mama Bear.” Family members know she’s a sincere, approachable, and trusted Resident advocate. To meet Beth Seese is to understand why Shurmer Place delivers on its promise of “Complete, compassionate Resident-centered care.”
Beth Seese
As the Resident Director, Seese oversees all aspects of Shurmer Place Memory Assisted Living – she serves as the director of nursing as well as the administrative lead. She is also responsible for patient intakes and assessments, meaning families often meet her first when evaluating care needs for their loved ones. Seese believes that great care starts with compassion, empathy and “a heart for the needs of the elderly.” Her dedication to her residents means these are also qualities she looks for in every member of her staff.

When Seese helped open the Shurmer Place Memory Assisted Living in 2018, her prime goal was to hire the best people available to ensure the delivery of true resident-centered care. More than two years later, Seese points to her dedicated and passionate team as the reason Shurmer Place Memory Assisted Living is such a special place to residents and family members. “We have always been a family of our own: each team member brings the best of themselves and shares that with the residents and their families. The staff sees themselves as an extension of the families we serve.”

On-going training in dementia care helps enhance staff knowledge and skills, so team members are able to support the residents and their families throughout their dementia journey. “Our staff takes great pride is seeing our residents smile. Most of my team has been here since we opened, and they know the residents and their needs very well. They help them feel as independent as possible while making sure their needs are met. We do not want them to feel like they are less than the person they’ve always been.”

Much of this independence comes from creating an environment that’s conducive to the special needs of the dementia community. The building is smaller by design and follows the Plane-tree methodology – creating a patient-centered environment that personalizes the resident experience. Large windows, colorful rooms and distinctive neighborhoods create the feeling of community and bring a level of inner security.

From there, staff makes sure the care matches the environment. “We care for the whole person, looking for ways to involve residents in the decisions that affect their day – from what they wear to what they eat. We give them choices and create conversations. We show them every day that they have a voice and a purpose.” 
Care Individualized to Your Loved One 
A Day in the Life: Why Routine Is Important to Those With Memory Loss 
When a resident first comes to Shurmer Place Memory Assisted Living, an intake assessment is completed which includes information related to their current physical and emotional health – as well as the interests and hobbies that make their life special. For Activities Director Linda Begley, this information is a lifeline – helping her and her team develop programs and activities that are truly individualized to each person yet perfect for the community as a whole. “Many of our residents enjoyed sewing as young adults. We invited in a volunteer who would bring her sewing machine and help with projects each week. It was an activity many residents loved, and it became a special part of our days,” says Begley.

While COVID has limited the number of outside volunteers allowed into building, it hasn’t lessened the amount of activities provided. “Routine provides a sense of inner security and is important to residents with cognitive impairment, but it’s equally important to help residents feel they are being productive,” explains Seese. “When we offered sewing, our residents would sew personal care items that we could donate or use. Our programming focuses on having a purpose and providing residents with a high quality of life.”

For Begley, this means creating a routine that’s enriching and soothing. “In the morning, we get our mind awake with word puzzles. Then we do exercises. With dementia, as the day progresses, it’s important to wind down with relaxing items in the afternoon: driving to look at the trees changing or a creative art project. We have many Veterans here too, so before dinner we say the Pledge of Allegiance and sing God Bless America. This gives residents a sense of security in knowing what the day will bring.”
Memory Care in the Age of COVID: Getting the Most out of Virtual Visits
Shurmer Place Memory Assisted Living is helping residents and family members stay connected as safely as possible. In addition to bi-weekly email communications, families are encouraged to take advantage of COVID-safe visits: either via video using Skype, Zoom or Facetime; or in-person via outdoor or indoor visits.

Safety with these visits remains top-of-mind. Notes Abby Debarr, who helps organize many of these visits: “We have created a system that allows everything to be completely sanitized after each family has a visit. Social distancing remains important, but that personal connection can still make a world of difference for our residents.”
“Dementia doesn’t just happen to the individual; it happens to the entire family.”
The Dementia Journey: Help Along the Way
Shurmer Place Memory Assisted Living has partnered with Dr. Katherine Judge, a Professor in the Psychology Department at Cleveland State University, to provide families with unique insights and advice on the journey they’ll take with their loved ones.

Dr. Judge, who has spent her career researching dementia, provides these seminars as a way to help families stay connected with their loved ones and get the most out of time together.

“Dementia impacts a person’s ability to master their own world. Their sense of self changes. As the illness progresses – you have to enter their world and see things from their new perspective. Your family member may have once loved talking about recent events, such as politics, but now they are focused on memories from earlier in their life. They also may express new preferences, such as a new food or a new way to wear their hair. Maybe they used to shave every day, but now they don’t like the feel of a razor and instead want to wear a beard. We as family members have to adjust to these new baselines.”

“Your lifeline with your loved one is to keep that emotional connection and maintain a positive relationship. They may be sharing something with you – telling a story that isn’t factually correct. Let them express it. You don’t have to challenge or correct them but rather validate their feelings and thoughts. When you’re working or taking care of someone with dementia – the factual correctness doesn’t matter. It’s the human connection that counts.”

Dr. Judge’s insights are based not only on her research but on her own personal journey with her father, who suffered from dementia. “One of his greatest joys later in life was eating chocolate cake and talking with his children. Sitting with him, watching him enjoy his chocolate cake and listening to him. That became our new normal and how we maintained our connection.”

Dr. Judge’s next webinar is scheduled for December 3 at 7 p.m.
Altenheim Senior Living
Phone: 440-238-3361