Symphony at Mentor’s mission to care only for memory care residents allows the staff to focus on the importance of understanding dementia

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Judy was hiding her dementia. Now, she doesn’t have to. (Photography: Benjamin Margalit)

By Mary Malik

It’s a Monday morning and Shelley Perry is sitting in her kitchen enjoying her morning tea. As she thinks about the week ahead, she knows it will involve work and maybe some babysitting for her three grandchildren. She also knows what it won’t involve: The constant worrying and attention the care of her mother required, until she became a resident at Symphony at Mentor.

“My three sisters and I had been taking care of my mom, Judy, the best that we could,” says Shelley. “We were constantly needing to increase her security, which meant taking turns being with her and tending to more of her needs. With our own work and families, it was getting difficult for us to manage and more dangerous for her to be alone.”

Even though Judy was already a resident at an assisted living community, it became clear to Shelley and her sisters that she needed more help.

“She was showing signs of dementia and probably for longer than we realized,” says Shelley. “She was very good at hiding her confusion, even from her doctors, but we could see she was struggling.”

Shelley and her sisters knew their mom needed a safer living situation that targeted her specific needs.

“There are so many things we love about Symphony at Mentor,” says Shelley.

“We know all of mom’s needs are being met. The staff gets everyone up, bathed and dressed, they eat breakfast, medications are dispensed and they are ready for the day. They have a purpose to their day, which is so important.”

Symphony at Mentor’s mission to care only for memory care residents allows the staff to focus on the importance of understanding dementia and how it affects not only the resident but the entire family.

“We stay in our own niche,” says Wayne Louis, executive director.

“We want to do one thing and do it very well—and we accomplish that here every day. Our staff is continually trained in memory care and specifically how to deal with the issues that may arise with our residents. Each resident is unique in his or her journey, which requires the specialized type of care we provide.”

The neighborhood layout of Symphony at Mentor offers a more homelike setting for residents, providing a sense of familiarity with their new surroundings. Residents’ days are filled with nutritious meals, therapies disguised as fun activities and community outings.

“The programs and activities are wonderful,” says Shelley. “There is something for everyone, no matter where they are in their progression. There’s pottery, cooking and sewing for those who are able, and music and movies, too. It’s wonderful to see mom a part of something and enjoying herself again.”

Shelley and her sisters looked at several places for Judy and were struck by how the “neighborhood” layout at Symphony at Mentor makes it seem even smaller, resulting in a quieter, more peaceful atmosphere. But Shelley can’t talk about Symphony at Mentor without focusing on the staff.

“If we have the slightest concern about mom they address the issue quickly and get right back to us. It’s not just a job for them. It’s a true passion for what they’re doing,” says Shelley.

“I’m always so impressed by how the staff members treat the residents just like their own family members. And they are so interested in all of us, as well. They understand that the better they know us, the better they can help mom. It’s really wonderful.”

Wayne knows that when it comes to memory care, it all comes down to the comfort and safety of the residents.

“Our residents have different needs that other assisted living communities may not be dealing with,” says Wayne.

“That’s why memory care is our only focus. For example, Shelley’s mom, Judy, doesn’t speak. Her caregivers need to learn her non-verbal cues in order to understand her needs. Our staff works on things like this in order to provide the best care possible.”

Shelley and Wayne agree that often the most difficult thing for families dealing with dementia is making the decision to seek a long-term care facility.

“It’s hard making that choice, but as soon as you realize your loved one is safer and better cared for than you can offer at home, the decision becomes easier,” says Shelley.

“Anyone familiar with dementia knows that it’s different than normal aging. The needs are different and you never know what’s coming next.”

Shelley describes the isolation that Judy was experiencing as her dementia progressed and how the community experience at Symphony at Mentor made such a difference.

“Symphony at Mentor is the right place for mom,” says Shelley. “They get it. She’s safe, well taken care of and she’s not alone anymore. And we can relax and enjoy our time with her in her new home.”

Symphony at Mentor is located at 8155 Mentor Hills Dr. in Mentor. Stop by for a visit, or call 440-290-4140 for more information or check them out on Facebook.