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Therapy group helps memory care residents at The Lantern with functional skills

Photo of Occupational Therapist Jessica Byers and Resident Emily Shaw

Some local therapists are making a difference in residents’ daily lives at The Lantern at Morning Pointe Alzheimer’s Center of Excellence in Frankfort, Kentucky.

Three therapists with The Weston Group serve patients on-site at The Lantern: a physical therapist, Michelle Baumgardner, and speech therapist, Cali Sills, three days a week and an occupational therapist, Jessica Byers, five days a week. Byers is the lead therapist.

Byers has been working with The Weston Group for four years. She is a certified dementia practitioner and the co-creator of a program called ValuABLE that enables therapists and caregivers to work with dementia patients in a more wholistic manner.

“When I first entered my career, I would encounter even other therapists who said that therapy is not appropriate for patients with dementia,” Byers shared. She, however, found that there are still ways to make these patients’ lives, and their caretakers’ interactions with them, better.

photo of Jessica Byers, occupational therapist
Jessica Byers, occupational therapist

With the ValuABLE program, when a patient is recommended for therapy, the therapists administer a cognitive assessment. Byers uses the Global Deterioration Scale to determine where the patient is in the process of dementia. The GDS is made up of seven stages, from no cognitive decline at level 1 to severe cognitive decline at level 7.

The therapy team then develops a resident profile that they share with caregivers, including not just their score on the GDS but also the resident’s past occupation, interests and other information that might be helpful in their treatment.

“It’s a very strengths-based document,” Byers explained. “Here’s what they can do. Here’s what we can do to set them up for success.”

The document is constantly evolving so that multiple departments can adapt their approach to the resident as needed.

“It helps anybody who’s working with them know where they are,” Byers said.

Caregivers take a more Montessori-based approach to activities, connecting residents to functional tasks that they have done in the past as part of routine life. For example, residents might enjoy sanding materials to be used later in a craft, or they may enjoy folding laundry. And knowing the resident’s current score on the GDS helps caregivers know what level of cognitive activity is most appropriate so that the resident is less likely to feel frustrated by tasks or activities that are too difficult, or, on the flip side, bored by an activity that is too easy.

“The activities help the individual feel like they’ve accomplished something, and that helps reduce boredom and exit seeking,” Byers said. “Even if they don’t remember the activity the next day, they’re still happier in the moment.”

Byers shared that keeping the residents engaged throughout the day enables them to socialize more, feel happier and nap less, which in turn helps them sleep better at night and maintain a better circadian rhythm.

Families, in turn, have a tool as they can use to better understand their loved one’s journey and interact with their loved one at an appropriate level to foster their relationship.

“For families, there’s so much unknown with dementia,” said Dana Gravitt, executive director at The Lantern. “Through ValuABLE, we can help reassure families that this is part of the disease process and help guide them along the journey as partners.”

Byers concluded: “When I can give some recommendation and show someone how to work with a resident to do a task together more successfully, that is the best part of this job.”

The Lantern Alzheimer’s Center of Excellence is located at 66 C. Michael Davenport Blvd. For more information about the ValuABLE program at The Lantern, please call 502-226-7118.

All of Morning Pointe’s communities offer on-site physical therapists for continued strength and independence.

Morning Pointe is the region’s choice for personal care and memory care, serving seniors across the Southeast for 25 years. In addition to the Frankfort memory care and personal care campus, in Kentucky, Morning Pointe operates senior living and memory care communities in Danville, Lexington, Louisville, Richmond and Russell.

Founded in 1997 by Tennessee healthcare entrepreneurs Greg A. Vital and Franklin Farrow, Morning Pointe Senior Living owns and operates 37 senior living, personal care and Alzheimer’s memory care communities in five southeastern states and is celebrating its silver anniversary throughout 2022.

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photo, left to right: Franklin Farrow, Morning Pointe Senior Living Co-Founder and CEO; Anita Estes, Executive Director at The Lantern at Morning Pointe of Knoxville; Greg A. Vital, Morning Pointe Senior Living Co-Founder and President; and Rob Pollard, Morning Pointe's Senior Vice President of Operations

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