Finding Specialized Care for Patients with Dementia


Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory (particularly short-term loss), thinking and behavior. It is a type of dementia that slowly and irreversibly destroys memory and thinking skills. Dementia, on the other hand, is the overarching umbrella that encompasses several disorders—including Alzheimer’s—that cause chronic memory loss, personality change or impaired reasoning.

When signs of dementia start manifesting in a loved one, most individuals or families are not fully trained or prepared to put in the time and care required to keep that person happy and healthy and to fight off the progression of the disorder. Fortunately, there are several living centers in Coastal Virginia that offer specialized services for those with memory problems.

Harmony Senior Services

Harmony Senior Services has four facilities in Coastal Virginia that provide assisted living and memory care for their residents. Those locations include Harmony on the Peninsula in Yorktown, Harmony at Independence in Virginia Beach, Harmony at Oakbrooke in Chesapeake and Harmony at Harbour View in Suffolk. The Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Suffolk locations also include independent living facilities.

“Our staff goes through a very specific training program focused on the care of Alzheimer’s/dementia patients,” says John Reale, regional sales manager for Harmony Senior Services. “We’ve created a life-enrichment program that is specifically designed for memory care patients to actually help them retain some of their cognitive abilities. It has been shown to slow the progression of the disease. If the same individuals were to stay at home without proper stimulation, the disease would advance more quickly than it would if they are involved in organized activities and being challenged. They’re also doing things that enrich other portions of their lives, like getting exercise regularly, which helps to improve their balance, so they are less likely to accidentally fall, and it keeps them healthier, so they don’t get sick as often. There are a multitude of benefits.”

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Assisted Living Facility
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Assisted Living Facility

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Assisted Living Facility is a not-for-profit, Catholic-based campus in Virginia Beach that offers memory care, extensive assisted living care and nursing care. Their Christopher Center, which provides sensitive, effective and personalized memory care support for their residents, includes three pavilions for residents.

“We currently have 63 residents in our Christopher Center, which is quite a large population” says Vera Morgan, admissions director at Our Lady of Perpetual Help. “Having that many people together can be overwhelming for some of the residents, so we have them broken up into three groups of 21, which is more comforting and embracing.”

The Reflections Memory Care Program is unique in that every employee who will come in contact with a memory care resident—whether it be a dietitian, a nurse, a janitor or someone in laundry services—must attend a three-day training program so they know how to approach and communicate with residents and learn what they can do to enhance each resident’s quality of life.

Although the facility is Catholic community-based under the Catholic Dioses in Richmond, a person does not need to be Catholic to be admitted. “We want our residents to have a busy day, so everybody has activities to keep them occupied and engaged, and there is a chapel here where we do mass twice a week,” says Morgan. “But we also have a pastor who does non-denominational services two or three times a week, so we have everything for everybody.”

Atlantic Shores Retirement Community
Atlantic Shores Retirement Community

Atlantic Shores Retirement Community in Virginia Beach offers the amenities of resort-style living on a 100-acre campus that includes independent living facilities, their Seaside Health Center & Rehabilitation skilled nursing and therapy center as well as their Harbourway Assisted Living community. There is also a 14-bed secure care unit for residents with dementia called Marina Bay.

“One of the things that we really strive to focus on is resident-centered care,” says Elizabeth Dammeyer, healthcare administrator for Seaside and Harbourway at Atlantic Shores. “We develop a plan of care with the residents, family members and caregivers, prior to admission, and we meet with family members on a regular basis, just to make sure we’re not only giving them the services that they need but also what they want. We cater to what their needs are. If they want to shower in the middle of the day, we’ll put it in their care plan they get a shower in the middle of the day. We try to not disrupt their routine that they’re used to in their home, so by continuing that, it helps to create a better transition from independent living to assisted living. Many of them have a fear of change, but once they move in, it’s like ‘wow.’ They actually feel more free because where they were having difficulties at home, now they have people there all the time to help them fill in the holes and the gaps that they had, and now they become more social again—they are partaking in flower arranging or going to our wine socials or our outings to different restaurants or movies or theater shows. They’re actually becoming more independent living in the assisted living.”

Coastal Virginia Magazine

Offering up stellar editorial and photography on a range of feature topics from personal and business profiles to the region's cuisine and style scene, Coastal Virginia Magazine provides an in-depth glimpse into what's happening in the region. Each issue offers up something new, from the annual Top Docs feature to Best Of CoVa Readers' Choice Awards, while still always providing insight from the regular columnists and news on the latest local events in the Datebook section.

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