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Ascent Living Pilots Program to Help Bridge Gap Between Memory Care, Assisted Living 

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Many senior living residents are living with some form of cognitive changes, but not all of them are ready for full-fledged memory care. That is why Ascent Living Communities is piloting a new program aimed at residents in assisted living with mild cognitive impairment.

Ascent Living Communities in December began piloting a new program called Bridge to Belonging in two of the company’s five communities. After only a month in implementation, the program is already bearing fruit, according to Amelia Schafer, area director of memory care at Ascent Living Communities.

What often ends up happening is that residents with cognitive impairment end up staying in their rooms, she said. Even when prompted by staff members, they are reluctant to leave.

The Bridge to Belonging program tasks two dedicated employees at each community with meeting with residents after breakfast and curating cognitively stimulating activities. Some of the activities that have been used include guided meditations, music and movement, lecture series and encouraging conversations.

“We do everything we can to not rely on short term memory. It’s a very kind of specialized approach to how we structure the day,” Schafer said. “The difference between that and general assisted living, people really have to kind of guide their own days. We have some things in place, like enrichment and mealtime. For people who have a hard time structuring their day, that just makes it a little bit tough.”

Eventually, the goal will be to allow Bridge to Belonging residents to become involved in the surrounding area through service projects and volunteering. However, the intention behind the program is to keep it to a small number, with no more than 10 in a group, so the on-hand staff can really know each and every resident taking part.

So far, Schafer said she has received positive feedback from residents, staff and employees that are taking part in the pilot, and due to its small size changes can be made quickly and easily when needed.

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Ascent Living has plans to eventually roll the program out to each of its communities. Ideally, she said, she would like to see if there are things about the program that can be tweaked to measure if residents are less lonely, bored or isolated while taking part.

“If we improve cognition a little, that would be excellent,” Schafer said. “Anecdotally … [for] one of our participants, his wife has said, ‘You know, he’s just a little sharper.’”

Schafer added the program has an opportunity to grow and look at what can be learned from Bridge to Belonging, and how those lessons can be adapted to fit within the independent living population of Ascent Living Communities communities.

“I think for us, to spread this and to share it and to ensure that the lessons we learn are used to benefit everyone, that would be the most ideal thing. Honestly, that would be phenomenal,” she said.

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