After Priscilla Yeakley’s father died, her mother Silvia moved in with the Yeakley family. Silvia has Alzheimer’s disease. The family was more than willing to care for Silvia, but over four years the strain of providing that care began to take a toll on everyone involved, especially Priscilla.

“My children, who were both in high school at the time, basically didn’t have a mom because I was constantly taking care of my mom,” recalls Priscilla.

A friend told Priscilla about the adult daycare services at Catholic Care Center in Bel Aire, just down the road from where the Yeakleys live. Catholic Care Center is one of more than a dozen senior care programs and facilities that are part of the continuum of care provided by Via Christi Health.

Silvia started attending the day program to give Priscilla a chance to have some time for herself. Eventually, however, Silvia’s dementia progressed to where she was not sleeping and would wander around the house, causing constant worry for Priscilla and her family.

In 2009, Silvia moved into Catholic Care Center’s Memory Care Residence, where she has benefited from the center’s programming, services and design — and from the renewed closeness to her daughter and grandchildren.

“It is more relaxed around our house now,” says Priscilla. “I’m not all tense; there’s more peace. It didn’t hurt us to have her here for four years, but now that I am more relaxed I am able to have more quality time with her.”

Award-winning programming and design

Catholic Care Center’s Memory Care Residence opened in November 2002, designed especially for those with early stage dementia. The development committee of Catholic Care Center traveled through several states to observe facilities and programs at continuing care retirement communities. In the course of the search, committee members discovered a new entrant into the continuum of long-term care services providing dementia care at an assisted living level. Thus was born the concept for a Memory Care Residence at Catholic Care Center.

Combining neighborhood living with a person-centered care philosophy, the center’s Memory Care Residence provides a unique environment for people with cognitive impairments who are best served in a home of their own.

Catholic Care Center’s program has been recognized nationally as a model. In 2011, its Memory Care Residence was recertified by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America as a Program of Distinction for excellence in dementia care.

Catholic Care Center is a community leader in Alzheimer services. It offers an Adult Day program for people who need a half-day or full-day program while the well spouse or caregiving adult child is at work. For those adults needing more advanced help, Catholic Care Center provides a continuity of care in two settings: the Memory Care Residence and The Meadows.

“Those who benefit from and qualify for an assisted living environment are served in the Memory Care Residence,’’ says Tom Church, CEO of Catholic Care Center. “Those who need a higher level of personal care are served in The Meadows.”

Catholic Care Center also hosts a support group for the Alzheimer’s Association on the first Wednesday of each month.

“God directed us”

Edel Snow and her father, John, say they were fortunate to find a home for Polly, Edel’s mother and John’s wife, in Catholic Care Center’s Memory Care unit.

“The benefits of having Mom at Catholic Care are numerous, but the benefits my dad and I like most are that Mom is treated like a person with a past, present and future, as well as a person who still has opinions to be expressed and heard,” Edel says. “The variety of places to sit and visit with Mom is helpful because dealing with her moods often requires a change of scenery,” Edel says. “When she is down we can sit on the patio in the fresh air and sunshine or in the sitting room with the fireplace and she feels like she is home with us.

“I am thankful that God directed us to Catholic Care and I am thankful for all of the help and advice I have received from staff members and family members of other residents,” she adds. “I sleep a lot better at night now.

Person-respected care

“We believe in honoring the special personality that has come to live with us by partnering with the resident’s family to provide a specially trained staff, programming that engages the resident, and a preferred living environment,” Church explains. “A well-designed environment creates a living space that enhances dignity and maintains independence,” he adds.

A carefully planned design also can accommodate, diminish and even neutralize disruptive behaviors. Design for the elderly, especially those with Alzheimer’s disease, needs to take into account their desire to continue normal daily activities that have given them pleasure, such as gardening or putting seeds into a bird feeder. These activities are often tied to a wellspring of memories that create the experience of well-being for the resident. The role of the environment is to enable this to happen, Church says.

One of the ways this is happening in the Memory Care Residence is through the cueing design leading to each resident household. Themes, colors and scenes create directions into one’s household.

For example, the cueing design for the south household is an old-fashioned street corner. A textured wall, painted like stone, leads from the core program area into the household. Once in the household, the stone wall continues with a café window. In front of the painted stone wall in the core program area is an old-fashioned street light, a mail box and a street corner bench.

The continuity of these items enables the residents of this household to find their own way to their home by tying in with objects they would have experienced in earlier years. The design creates an environment that is friendly and more conducive to a resident’s sense of well-being.

“More care than I could give”

Tom Englund proudly states he would give up his own life for his mother and, in many respects, he did just that. Born in Kansas City, Mo., Tom was one of three siblings and the only boy. His parents decided to move the family to Liberal, preferring to raise their family in a small town environment. They ran a fabric shop until Tom’s father died in 1971. Jo McKuen, his mother, moved to Wichita in 2006 to be closer to family.

Tom and his two sisters observed their mother’s increasing forgetfulness, noting with alarm that she was even forgetting to eat. They hired cooks, but she needed more care. Eventually Tom made the decision to move into his mother’s home with his wife so they could care for her 24 hours a day.

“I could see that her physical needs were being met, but she needed more care than I could give her,” he says. “It was a real blow to me when I came to the realization I couldn’t take good enough care of her.”

The family had always used Via Christi Health’s hospitals, where Tom says people are treated with dignity and respect. So his search naturally led him to the Catholic Care Center. His mother’s physical condition had deteriorated to the point where she needed more intensive nursing care than was provided in the Memory Care Residence, so she was admitted to The Meadows, which provides a home for residents with mid- to later-stage dementia who benefit from skilled nursing and individualized daily activity.

Tom says he has never regretted his decision. His mother is happy, receives excellent care and has a new friend. Tom says he couldn’t ask for a more dedicated staff. “I sleep a lot better at night now, knowing Mom is safe and well cared for.”