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Dementia and memory loss has touched all of us in some way, and with an aging population, there is an immediate need for a new way of thinking about memory loss research, prevention, and care.
As a national leader in senior living, Willow Valley Communities has crafted a new vision for the future of memory care—a Memory Care Center which will transform the lives of those affected by dementia through cutting-edge design, innovative programming, and the latest technology the world offers. In this feature, we will unveil this important project and meet the people who are leading the way.
THE RISE OF DEMENTIA
Whether it is you or someone you know or love, dementia will soon touch everyone’s life. Dubbed the “Silver Tsunami,” the Baby Boomer generation will crest age 65 by 2030 and older adults will soon begin to outnumber American children for the first time in history—resulting in more people having dementia.
It may be surprising to learn there is a tremendous knowledge gap in the fields of memory care and neurodegenerative diseases. Yet, this is a modern-day reality which leads to frequent misdiagnoses, scarcity of resources, ill-prepared informal caregivers (such as family and friends), and inexperienced medical professionals.
Annual Medicare funding for dementia will soon rise to trillions of dollars, and crippling out-of-pocket costs will plague younger generations of unpaid caregivers.
This culmination of mounting issues underscores one point—no individual, continuing care community, or healthcare system is prepared to face this alone.
A solution that will benefit so many...
With an impact reaching far beyond Lancaster County, the new Memory Care Center at Willow Valley Communities will be a community resource and hub for exploring and understanding brain health in order to make strides in the prevention, treatment, and care of people with dementia.
The Institute within the Center, open to many, will feature an assessment center, partnerships with prominent academic medical centers, clinical trials, professional counseling, peer support, a dedicated training and education center, and a café—all of this to advance research, stave off decline, and improve the journey for everyone impacted by dementia. In addition, people experiencing memory loss while still living at home can remain socially and physically active through the Adult Day Center, which will also offer respite for caregivers.
Preserving the dignity of those with dementia...
Breaking the mold of traditional memory care paradigms, this new Memory Care Center will focus on quality-of-life, reducing the stigma, and enabling those with dementia to live as normally as possible. Residents of the Center will be free to roam and experience the entire seven-acre Memory Care Campus, where they can self-elect to engage in programs that foster moments of joy and connections to their life prior to memory loss.
Fourteen households, each with 10 private bedrooms and the amenities of a typical home, will be centered around the Commons building. Multiple destinations that promote meaningful activity for residents and visitors will maximize the potential for independence and socialization, as well as integration with daily routines.
A grocery store, bakery, ice cream shop, sit-down restaurant, dance and fitness studio, meditation room, salon and spa, performance stage, greenhouse, and expansive outdoor courtyard will offer the comforts of normalcy and the benefits of autonomy within a safe, secure environment.
This is personal to so many. Carrying out the vision for this pace-setting Memory Care Center led to the formation of the Willow Valley Communities Charitable Foundation in 2018, which promptly launched the This is Personal capital campaign in 2020. Philanthropy will enable specialized programming, globally recognized clinical and academic partnerships, community education, and top-level treatment.
To date, 700 Willow Valley Communities residents, grateful family members, business partners, and the local philanthropic community have supported the effort to raise over $20 million to help fund and empower the Center. This is a legacy project that will transform the lives of those affected by dementia for decades to come.
The Willow Valley Charitable Foundation wants to thank the generous donors for their support in making the Memory Care Center a reality and for sharing their personal stories for this feature.
Marlin & Doris Thomas
and the Thomas family
My experience with my father makes this personal to us. He was always a very positive, optimistic person. He was a servant leader with a heart for hospitality, evidenced by his years in the hotel and restaurant business. He loved to travel, tell stories, and to host both friends and strangers around his table for a meal. Those strangers became friends by the end of the meal! He loved baseball, was a Phillies’ season ticket holder, and never missed a World Series. He loved life.
This all changed when he developed dementia. His outlook on life took a 180 degree turn, with an end to travel, ball games, fewer stories, and he was less optimistic about everything. He was in The Glen at Willow Valley Communities for the last year of his life, and he received excellent care there.
Our family and Willow Valley Associates have given to the Memory Care Center because we want to be part of this project’s mission—to transform the lives of those affected by dementia. This can be a gift of our legacy at Willow Valley Communities and worldwide, beyond our lifetimes.
Our hope is that we will fulfill our mission and vision—that the Memory Care Center at Willow Valley Communities will break the mold of how life with dementia is experienced. We will partner with research centers to establish The Institute for assessment, caregiver support, and training that models Willow Valley hospitality for multi-generations.
This will enable all those impacted to look forward to visiting, eating, shopping, attending entertainment venues, and learning through workshops at the Memory Care Center—and more. A life lived forward, by enjoying life together! From our experience, everyone knows or will know someone experiencing dementia. Talk with them. As time went on, I soon realized that each day with my father was the best it was going to get. At that time, there was no plan to break the mold.
I thank John Swanson for taking the leadership, with others, and forging a new path for dementia care. John said that we can do better, and we will.
This is personal to me because my parents were living in a retirement community. After mother died, dad did well for several years, but he was lonely. I realized when he needed health care, I was totally unprepared to be a caregiver. He was eventually moved into a building where one hallway was designated for patients with dementia. The staff knew nothing about his background, what he did as a working man, or any of his interests and activities. We must change that.
Each year there are more people diagnosed with types of dementia, one of which is Alzheimer’s disease. The need for this Memory Care Center at Willow Valley Communities is great. It will be a place to feel safe, free, like home, for everyone’s peace of mind. I am aware of folks sliding into that gray area—family, and friends who will benefit from this project. I have become passionate about having it built to meet these needs.
My hope for the new Center is that freedom of movement, multiple activities, and getting outdoors will help to quiet the anger and frustration of the disease. The ratio of caregivers will be much improved. The Adult Day Center will be a boon to those caring for spouses with dementia at home. I hope the Memory Care Center will be a solution to this problem that needs our attention.
Paul A. Mueller, Jr.
This is personal to me because I experienced Alzheimer’s disease with my wife and her family. Dementia impacts almost every family, although Alzheimer’s is best known. My wife’s mother was in her mid-60s when we married in 1955. She could not plan our wedding due to her “mental” condition. No doctor knew what to prescribe or how to treat her condition as she was physically so healthy. Years later, my wife’s six siblings suffered from Alzheimer’s. She was the last in her family to die of this disease.
Dementia is increasing in our communities as our population lives longer. People need to know more about the types of dementia. All of us want the best for the person we love and who is no longer the vibrant, intelligent, and loving person she or he was. I wanted to support a project which will fill a need for specialized understanding and care.
I hope the Memory Care Center will be so impactful and serve as a model that other communities will look to as they develop similar facilities to care for individuals suffering from dementia. My interest in the Jane Moffat Mueller Adult Day Center is its focus also on the caregiver. Having a dedicated space with professional staff to relieve the caregiver for a morning or afternoon is needed in the community. The caregivers need a break from what can be a stressful environment, as Alzheimer’s becomes progressively worse and requires them to have greater patience and understanding.
Dementia is no longer a taboo subject, but it is still deeply personal. I can recall as far back as the 1930s that people thought someone was “crazy” or “mentally unstable” so that person was hidden and hardly talked about. That time has changed, fortunately, as society has learned about dementia and its types, such as Alzheimer’s. My feeling is it is healthy and helpful to talk about the disease and the affected person. The caregiver needs support and understanding from family and close friends. I certainly benefited from sharing what was going on with my wife.
This is personal to me because I had a front row seat as I watched my soulmate, my rock, my husband of 53 years descend into the abyss that is dementia. I saw this former vibrant, intelligent, humorous man suffer and fade as I felt helpless. No one should have to experience that heartbreak either as a patient or a loved one.
It is my hope that the contributions to the Memory Care Center in Jack’s memory will help to ease the experience for others who take the lonely journey into dementia. Unfortunately, there are untold numbers of individuals and their loved ones who will have this devastating experience. It is my sincere belief that the new Memory Care Center at Willow Valley Communities will help to make the transition as smooth and comfortable as possible.
The journey of dementia is not linear. There are moments of lucidity in which an observer might think the person is alright. However, those moments are fleeting. During these episodes, a place of supervised freedom can bring contentment to the resident. It will grant a degree of freedom not usually experienced by those in traditional memory care centers. There will be chances to breathe fresh air outside, to wander about, and to experience life as normally as possible.
No one wants to think that it would happen to them or a loved one, but dementia does not discriminate. No one deserves it. Jack was a wonderful, intelligent human being and certainly didn’t deserve it, and yet it happened. There was no history of it in his family, yet it happened. There was no rhyme nor reason to it, and it happened. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t happen. But if it does, the Willow Valley Communities’ Memory Care Center will be there to support. It is our best possible hope.
This is personal to me because it was exactly four years ago this week that my wife, Sandy, fell down the basement steps, striking the back of her head. She was in New Jersey, playing with her great-grandchildren. Because of that fall, her early-stage memory loss became exacerbated, and she has required nursing care continually.
Our family, including the broad support and encouragement of Sandy’s children, feel it is the very best utilization of all our financial resources to contribute to this innovative Memory Care Center to ensure state-of-the-art care for Sandy.
While providing education about dementia and fundraising for this new memory care program, many of us plan to continue giving annually, recognizing the need to encourage more research to advance treatment and care for those afflicted with memory issues.
Sandy’s children, grandchildren, and I share several views and hopes for the proposed Memory Care Center at Willow Valley Communities. Once completed, we hope Sandy qualifies for residency in the new community and will enjoy a renewed lifestyle that will enhance her everyday living experiences. Secondly, we look forward to participating in and possibly benefiting from any advances in ongoing scientific dementia research that may ensure comfort and understanding.
This entire experience of how dementia has affected our family and friends has been a huge educational and life-changing experience for me.
Naively, I believed dementia only impacted “other” peoples’ lives. It has taught me to be more alert as we age, to be more aware of subtle changes in a loved one’s aging process, and how to respond while providing benefit and support.
Pat and George Desmond
This is personal to us because we see such a need for an all-encompassing community to care especially for the needs of dementia patients. Overall, our hopes are for the beginning of a new, necessary, and integral part of health care—helping families to cope and understand this malady. The conception, the initiative, the fundraising campaign, and the actual building, due to Willow Valley Communities’ outstanding notice in this strata, will open more hearts and minds to share in this understanding of something that affects most every family in some way.
This is personal to me because my father suffered from mental illness for most of his life. I know the effect that it has on a family, the stigma it carries, and the inadequacy of traditional treatment. I’m compelled to support the Memory Care Center because it addresses one of the most significant mental health issues we face today. This project tackles the problem of dementia head-on and has the potential to become a game-changer. My hope and expectation is that the Memory Care Center at Willow Valley Communities, along with The Institute, becomes a national role model in the areas of dementia research, prevention, training, and care. Aging can have a damaging effect on our mental health. It benefits all of us to have a better understanding of the factors that lead to dementia, and the personal lifestyle changes we can make to slow or prevent it.
Dementia is so personal—and surrounded by hopes. Those with mild cognitive impairment hope to avoid further decline in memory. They also hope who they are will not be lost. Family and friends hope those affected with dementia will live meaningfully as their life span extends beyond their sound minds. This is an opportunity to turn those hopes into reality.
"The programs and amenities of this Memory Care Center will be unmatched. There are not many centers like this in America, and we will have one, right here in Lancaster County. A Center with impact for years to come, through our special memory care program. Voted one of the best towns to enjoy retirement, it will be just what our Lancaster community needs. Dementia will impact each and every one of us. We can build this for our families, for our neighbors, and for all those who will benefit from its endeavors.” – Becky and Bill
JOIN THE VISION
Hear the full story and find out how you can get involved or send your tax-deductible check to:
Willow Valley Communities Charitable Foundation
100 Willow Valley Lakes Drive
Willow Street, PA 17584
For more information about ways to give or named gift opportunities, please contact the Foundation today at 717.517.3901.