At JEA Senior Living, we firmly believe in the power of people and relationships. After all, we are in the people business. Building relationships with residents, their families, and our team members, we have found that the best care outcomes are reached when we practice Caring Together and work in partnership towards a resident’s holistic healthcare goals.
As part of Caring Together and our Meaningful Moments program, we believe in fostering relationships that will bring purpose, meaning, and joy to all of our residents. This is why we developed our Companion Living program for our Memory Care communities.
A companion is defined as:
- a person with whom one spends a lot of time or with whom one travels
- one of a pair of things intended to complement or match each other
Why Companion Living?
Companion Suites are a way of life that resonates with the seniors we have the privilege of serving. Throughout their lives, seniors have shared life and lived in community with others i.e. parents, siblings, children, spouses. These relationships have built strong bonds, trust, and camaraderie.
As part of the disease process of Alzheimer’s and related dementia, those affected start to withdraw inside themselves – becoming more isolated and losing meaningful relationships – as the disease progresses. This first starts as a way to save face and avoid embarrassment; however, as the pattern continues it can quickly become detrimental and exacerbate the disease process through lack of stimulation and engagement.
With intentional relationships and structured engagement programs, our teams endeavor to create an environment that is filled with meaningful relationships and interaction for all of our residents. This strategy is actually rooted the psychological principles of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
To help our residents continue living their best lives, we not only meet their basic needs in both safety/security and physiological needs, but also consider their greater needs for self-fulfillment, self-esteem, and belonging. This is where Companion Living and our Meaningful Moments program come into play. By building positive relationships with our residents through Companion Living and Meaningful Moments, we are able to provide meaningful personalized engagement that brings increased self-esteem, ideally striving for our residents to reach their full potential, despite their disease process.
How does Companion Living benefit my loved one?
There are numerous benefits for Companion Living residents. While this is not a comprehensive list, we have provided a few examples below of how our residents have benefited from this program:
Health Benefits for Social Seniors
Seniors who are socially isolated face a 29% increased risk of heart disease and 32% increased risk of stroke. Loneliness has also been associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
Staying social through Companion Living and Meaningful Moments means staying healthy as well as happy!
With the progression of dementia, memory failure leads to fear of the unknown. It can be difficult to recognize loved ones, familiar places, and even identify your own face in a mirror. When the ability to orient oneself is gone, we rely on others to help place us in time and space. With Companion Living, our residents have a companion and friend with them for comfort and assistance with orientation. There is also a greater sense of accomplishment, care, and companionship when residents are able to help queue one another.
Need for Belonging + Family Support
Companions not only help one another with orientation but can also help create a sense of community. By sharing a living space, relationships are built quickly, allowing for familiarity and strong bonds over time. Residents are also paired based on their life story and similar interests in order to help jump-start relationships which can help meet the needs of friendship, belonging, security, and reassurance.
The shared interests among residents can also lead to strong relationships between Companion resident families. In addition to residents providing support and encouragement for one another, companion living families also develop strong bonds of support for one another as their loved ones move through the disease process.
Increased Mental Stimulation and Engagement
Companion Living not only provides frequent opportunities for engagement with resident companions but also opportunities to interact with our team members and everyone in our community. By encouraging all residents to join in our daily programming, companions will typically attend and enjoy activities together. This provides more personal interactions with our team members, other residents, and increased mental stimulation.
While Companion Living is appealing for some, others may have concerns about their loved one sharing a living space with another resident. Private rooms are available at an additional cost and may be a good fit in specific situations. However, most families find that Companion Living is a great fit for their loved one – which also helps bridge the gap and make the initial transition to memory care smoother.
Here is a Family Testimonial from one of our resident family members speaking about their Companion Living experience:
Two things I have learned through this process of placing my Mom. The sooner you are able to place your loved ones, the better for them and a companion in a semi-private room is very much a positive. I have taken care of my Mom for 6 years (living with her) and felt a private room would best meet her needs; I was so wrong. Mom is thriving with her new roommate and companion. It amazes me how her roommate, Jane, worries when I appear, that Mom is going to leave with me. She is so quick to tell me all the positives about their relationship. She sells me on how important they are to each other. Their relationship is stronger than the last years of her marriage with my Dad.
It gives Mom purpose. It’s like dormitory living, or in her case, rooming with the girls, (once upon a time), in Nurse’s training. Mom shared with me during a recent visit, that she likes her life, and wanted me to know she was, “Okay”, and “It feels like home!” Just like any relationship, Mom and Jane matter to each other. They have conversations like you and I together; they feel safe with each other… I would never have guessed in a million years that companion living would have such an impact in a way, to give Mom her independence and life back. A contradiction to my original way of thinking. If I was not in a wonderful relationship myself, I would be jealous of the two of them!!
Companion Living is not just an apartment option, it’s the perfect combination of friendship, safety, and home. If your loved one needs assisted living or memory care services, please contact us for more information and resources. We look forward to serving your family and partnering with you in Caring Together.