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How Garden Spot Used ‘Sonic Treatment’ to Improve Memory Care Operations

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What an older adult with dementia hears throughout the night may help promote better sleep and bring about a variety of other wellness benefits.

That’s according to the findings of a study conducted by Garden Spot Communities in collaboration with the Center for Health Design and Composure, an audio technology company dedicated to serving senior living. The study, which involved 36 residents, 19 of which were in the treatment group and 17 in the comparison group, and took place over the course of a month, aimed to determine if a “sonic treatment” could help residents at Meadow View Memory Care sleep better.

For the study, researchers played a curated sequence of custom music and “pink noise” – which is a frequency that reduces the severity of background noises – specifically designed to cue bedtime and ease sleep onset for residents during the night as they slept. The sounds are gradually reduced in the morning, so that residents can wake up naturally.

The results, according to Melody Karick, Garden Spot dementia educator; and Jeff McSpadden, co-founder and CEO of Composure, were even better than anticipated. Specifically, the study garnered two “statistically significant” results.

“The top one was a reduction in daytime drowsiness, so less napping during the day, which is a pretty good proxy for better rest at night,” McSpadden told Memory Care Business “The other statistically significant outcome was … the participants that slept the best, showed greater independence during the day and required less hands-on care.”

Results of the study were published in Sage Journals late last year.

The original idea for the study came about entirely by accident. Karick said there had been a water leak in Laurel View, the original memory care wing at Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based Garden Spot Village in 2021, and fans were used to dry the area. The wing’s residents had been farmers or truck drivers earlier in their lives, and Karick said they had a tendency to be up late at night as a result.

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While the fans were active, however, she said they would often sleep throughout the night and wake up later in the morning than usual. Residents in the program also generally had better experiences with activities of daily living, such as bathing, eating and getting dressed.

The results also noted that following the study, staff were supportive of resuming the sonic sleep treatment.

Anecdotally, there were benefits for staff as well. With the program came a reduction in stress and therefore burnout, McSpadden noted.

With positive results now in hand, Garden Spot is planning to roll out the program to other areas of care in the community, such as skilled nursing and assisted living. McSpadden added Composure has developed “an entirely deployable turnkey system,” and talks are underway to incorporate its use in other Garden Spot communities in the future. 

Garden Spot has been on the move in the last year. The organization affiliated with Frederick Living in September, 2023. At the time, Garden Spot’s occupancy sat at about 98% with a growing waitlist.

“We believe that … in order to sustain some of the economic turmoil that we are certain will come in the future, you have to be a certain critical mass in order to accomplish that,” CEO Steve Lindsey told MCB sister publication Senior Housing News. “That is a conversation we will continue to have … to align with other good organizations.”

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