Beacon Pointe Memory Care: Donna Smith-Cardish, Administrator

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BMC-thumbTucked away in upstate New York, just north of Albany, is a small 52-bed facility for residents with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other memory impairments. Known as Beacon Pointe Memory Care, it’s a unique facility, with a strong community atmosphere that gives residents the feeling of being in a small village.

The facility has two sides with 26 beds on each side and a town square in the middle, complete with a barber shop, office space, banking area, sweets shop, and murals to replicate an outdoor atmosphere.

Beacon Pointe is operated by Peregrine Health Management Company, giving it access to the resources of a larger organization. Peregrine’s foundation, The Peregrine Way, provides services to Beacon Pointe’s residents, families, and staff.

Stimulating residents the Peregrine Way

The Peregrine Way is much like a three-legged stool, Administrator Donna Smith-Cardish said. It has programs designed for everyone involved in the residents’ care, including families and staff.

Families of residents are offered many educational opportunities through the foundation to help them understand and adjust to this new stage in a loved one’s life. Families can be taught proper communication techniques, receive sensitivity training, take family-support programs, and become involved in outlets for creative expression, such as art and creative-writing programs.

The Peregrine Way also provides Beacon Pointe’s staff with the opportunity to receive behavioral-management training, sensitivity training, and other various and ongoing development opportunities.

Residents themselves are offered spiritual programs; classic radio days that feature music from the 30s through the 60s; Around the World, a monthly program that explores different cultures through dining, dress, music, or learning a new language; and Legacy Stories, which are written with the assistance of local high school students.

This array of programs is designed to work with residents’ memory issues, while using their abilities to the fullest and ministering to their families’ needs and the needs of those who take care of them on a daily basis.

In fact, keeping residents active is the primary goal of Beacon Pointe.

A healthy environment of activity

“In this environment, our activities program is just as important as the medication residents receive,” Cardish stated. “We try to push the envelope a little to challenge and stimulate our residents. We have a master gardener program, an arts program, and music.”

The facility also has a music therapist who plays piano, performs duets with residents who still have the ability to play an instrument, and even sings opera on more formal occasions.

To help residents maintain abilities longer, Beacon Pointe presents opportunities to work within the community. The facility will bake for a local church, offer filing or administrative services to local nonprofits needing help, and other small services.

“Our residents have a lot to offer,” Cardish said. “Although they have memory impairment, each one has a unique history. We try to tap into their strengths and set them up for success.”

Because of New York state licensing, all residents of Beacon Pointe must be fully ambulatory and able to feed themselves. When residents become physically frail, Beacon Pointe offers physical therapy through Weston Paxxon to help them extend their stay.

Weston Paxxon rents space from the facility and in turn, has added physical therapy to the activities program. This resource has allowed the facility to offer some fun new programs, such as an Olympics event during the Summer Olympics, with balloon volleyball, trivia, and other games.

Cardish said having Weston Paxxon onsite has been a huge benefit, because it is difficult to find outside providers to come in and offer therapy to residents with memory impairment.

All of this activity has reaped great rewards for the organization. As Beacon Pointe has added programs, retention rates have increased.

Dedication from staff to ease transitions

Caring for residents with memory impairments is physically and emotionally draining and takes a special kind of person. Cardish said the facility is lucky to have dedicated and loving staff who enjoy coming to work and developing strong relationships with their residents.

“Our caregivers do a fantastic job,” she said. “They get attached to residents, and it feels like losing a family member when residents have to move on to a higher level of care or pass away. But that’s how you know they have been successful and nurtured that resident.”

The compassion from staff and the home-like environment of the facility helps to ease transitions, which are challenging for everyone. Before residents are admitted, Beacon Pointe has an interview with residents, family members, and caregivers to learn as much about the resident as possible to help them through the transition.

“Some people have difficult transitions, but after they leave for a holiday, some will tell their family that they are ready to go home, representing that Beacon Pointe has become their home,” Cardish said.

Transitions are also difficult for family members, caregivers, and spouses who are left behind. Beacon Pointe tries to set up activities or an environment where the caregiver can get acquainted with the resident in his or her new home and help understand the limitations of a person suffering from dementia.

Maintaining solvency for the future

Beacon Pointe continues to expand programs and look for ways to offer the best care to residents. So far, the facility has been able to sustain occupancy and has adjusted some rooms to accommodate different living arrangements. With some larger units, Beacon Pointe can accommodate couples who would like to remain together, offering a discounted rate.

Cardish also credits marketing efforts and Beacon Pointe’s reputation in the community for being able to maintain occupancy. But most of all, Beacon Pointe and Peregrine are simply passionate about keeping people active and healthy long after physical ailments have slowed them down.

Cardish said, “We will continue to stay ahead of the competition and push the envelope in terms of aesthetics and programming.”

-by Patricia Chaney

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