Senior housing operator adds special touch to dementia care

Pathway to Living today announced that Aspired Living of Westmont, a 107-unit assisted living and memory care community scheduled to open this month in Westmont, Ill., will be the first senior housing community in the United States to provide residents with the Spark of Life Philosophy, a breakthrough program of treatment and support for dementia care.

First launched in Australia in 2007, Spark of Life was developed under the guidance of Jane Verity, a pioneer in the field of dementia care and research with a background in Tom Kitwood’s person-centered care and the Eden Alternative. Designed to reverse the symptoms of dementia – a process called rementia – Spark of Life focuses not just on the physical needs of memory care residents, but also their social, emotional and spiritual well-being. By creating a stimulating environment in which each person is encouraged to participate, the program has been shown to improve memory, language, communication and behavior in people living with dementia.

“The key to Spark of Life lies in a heart-to-heart connection that enables a person with dementia to reconnect with their spirit – the inner driving force that restores zest for life,” said Verity.

Pathway to Living, which owns and operates 30 senior living communities in four states, is integrating Spark of Life into its A Knew Day memory care, founded on industry best practices and the latest research in dementia treatment. In order to offer Spark of Life, members of the Pathway team traveled to Australia to complete an intensive three-week course in order to become certified master practitioners, a requirement for implementation of the program.

“We diligently seek out ways to improve the care for our residents with dementia and believe this remarkable therapy succeeds in rekindling the essence – or spark – of life,” said Maria Oliva, Pathway to Living’s chief operating officer. “Spark of Life aligns seamlessly with our existing memory care programs offered at all Pathway communities. We’re excited to introduce it to both residents and their families.”

Under the leadership of Pathway’s two master practitioners, Aspired Living of Westmont will work toward becoming the country’s first Spark of Life Centre of Excellence, a designation that proves 100 percent compliance and success of the program. The two-year process involves submitting quarterly reports that measure the effectiveness of care provided and willingness to go beyond minimum standards for meeting the emotional needs of residents. A goal of the program is to reduce the amount of antidepressants, antipsychotics and sedatives often administered to residents.

“Most assisted living programs meet the basic physical needs of residents, but too often they focus on what a person is unable to do rather than what they can accomplish,” said Helen Brown, director of A Knew Day at Pathway to Living. “With Spark of Life, we look beyond the four D’s – diseases, disabilities, difficulties and differences – and give focused attention to residents, encouraging those who have withdrawn to re-engage, both internally and externally.”

Spanning 10 countries across five continents, Spark of Life has been recognized by the Global Ageing Network (formerly the International Association of Homes and Services for the Aging) as a model of innovation and excellence. The program has also been endorsed as a recommended best practice by both the Wisconsin Adult Day Services Association (WASDA) and in a collaborative study between the Wisconsin Bureau of Aging and Disability Resources and the Wisconsin Office of Quality Assurance. In addition to implementing the philosophy at its Westmont community, Pathway is also incorporating similar practices across its portfolio as part of the company’s A Knew Day memory care programming.

“For an elderly person with dementia, the light never truly goes out,” said Oliva. “Pathway to Living seeks to be a leader in showing Spark of Life is not a cure but, instead, a reliable approach that delivers measurable results simply by honing in on each resident’s emotional needs. What may seem like small steps to an outside person are really significant strides for the individual living with dementia, allowing them to take back their life and reconnect with loved ones – even if it’s just for a few fleeting moments.”

Located at 407 W. 63rd St., Aspired Living of Westmont will include 73 assisted living apartments in a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom floor plans, as well as 34 memory care studios. All plans feature in-unit baths with accessible showers.  

Residents of Aspired Living of Westmont can expect to receive a high quality of care while benefitting from Pathway’s award-winning VIVA! philosophy, which enriches lives through various social, educational and recreational pursuits. Residents will also have access to a full suite of amenities that serve as an extension of their homes. They include The Sycamore Restaurant and Prairie Grass Bistro serving fresh, nutritional meals; a spa and salon; a fitness center with personal trainers; a library; a movie theater; an art studio; and landscaped outdoor walking paths. 

Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia