Presbyterian SeniorCare’s new facility designed with memory care in mind

Paul J. Gough
Pittsburgh Business Times

Presbyterian SeniorCare Network helped pioneer the care for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia back in the early 1990s with its Woodside Place of Oakmont. Now, its newest community, the soon-to-be-opened Woodside Place of Washington, is taking another step forward in memory care.

The $12 million residential care community on South Main Street in Washington, just down the street from the campus Presbyterian SeniorCare has had there since 1960, will offer the same type of memory care that the organization is known for but using the latest state-of-the-art advancements.

The Business Times took a tour in late December of the facility, which will welcome its first residents in January when it receives official assisted-living licensure from the state. The building can house 36 residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia, providing round-the-clock care in a home setting. Woodside Place of Washington was funded in part by a $3.1 million capital campaign that exceeded its goal.

Looking around Woodside Place, it’s a lot like other senior living communities. Each resident has an individual apartment-style room and bathroom. There are common living rooms with big-screen TVs, bright sunrooms, big kitchens and dining areas. There is also a large porch overlooking Washington and East Washington to the north, as well as a memory garden with seats in and out of the sun, so the residents can enjoy the good weather.

What’s unique is Woodside Place is broken up into four communities, two on each floor. The communities are based on themes that mean a lot to the Washington County community, a mostly rural region: Fairgrounds, Covered Bridges, Countryside and Springhouse.

That’s important, said Mary McHugh Murray, senior director of Presbyterian SeniorCare Network’s Washington Campus and Woodside Place, because providing familiar and warm settings have been shown to help make connections for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Each theme is infused into every part of Woodside Place, from the colors to the artwork and photographs that grace the walls. The artwork, for instance, plays on each theme, but it’s also larger than usual to allow people with reduced vision to enjoy it better. The color themes show up near the residences as color coding to help guide residents back to their rooms. And even though the facility isn’t open yet, Murray said the initial reaction from the families of loved ones who will move to Woodside Place has been positive.

“It really resonates with the residents and their families,” Murray said.

Technology is everywhere. The dining and living rooms have special overhead lighting that adjusts to the time of day and seasons, to allow people to sleep and function better. Murray said research has shown that better health and clinical outcomes are associated with lighting that pays attention to circadian rhythms.

High-technology induction heating in the kitchen area means no hot countertops.

And there are digital memory boxes, smallish screens at the front of every residence, that will be filled with photographs of people and items and other things important to the resident. A wristband worn by every resident will activate the digital memory boxes as the resident approaches, providing another clue that this is home.

“It’s a reminder and a clue (that) this is where my heart is, this is where I’m comfortable,” Murray said.

And it’s not necessarily high-tech, but on the menu are nutritious, healthy, wholesome food.

Owing to its mission, there are also myriad safety measures built in.

The outdoor areas have guidance cues, such as brick linings in the pathways to provide warning of the edges, and each outdoor area is also secure.

Inside each room, there is technology that lets the staff know when someone is moving around, which helps alert to falls or other problems.

Woodside Place is designed with inside and outside loops, all secured to prevent wandering, so that there’s freedom of movement.

“They can safely walk around and explore,” Murray said. “Woodside’s unique focus is on person-centered care. We really get to know the people, their interests, their likes.”

That person-centered care also includes a recreational therapeutic room, where activities will be centered. There’s a discovery room downstairs that uses bubbles and fiber optic lights to provide sensory experiences. Both use technology as well as more traditional methods. There are creative arts rooms on each floor, as well as a beauty salon.

Also new to Woodside is a computer system called It’s Never 2 Late, or iN2L, a computer system that uses touch screens, a big display and 2,000 apps from email to webcams and content personalized to the individual resident that helps engage the person with dementia.

About 30 people, some new to Presbyterian SeniorCare and others who are transferring from other parts of the organization, will be working at Woodside Place. They are each specially trained to provide dementia care, and while there’s a central station on each floor, there’s also a mandate to spend as much time with the residents as possible.

“The goal is to have the team members circulate with the residents,” Murray said.