This is Personal | September 2023 Updates

In anticipation of their new Memory Care Center, Fig is partnering with Willow Valley Communities to share ongoing updates on the progress of this groundbreaking Center.

In anticipation of their new Memory Care Center, Fig is partnering with Willow Valley Communities to share ongoing updates on the progress of this groundbreaking Center. Read the full story on the purpose behind the Center here.

As design concepts evolve into construction documents and program elements are further defined for the Memory Care Center, Willow Valley Communities remains hard at work to advance the scope and presence of technology on campus.

Technological advancements are occurring in nearly every sector, and healthcare is no exception. Across the continuum of care, technology’s role in improving the quality of life for residents, while also boosting their autonomy, is growing. Applications to improve attention, awareness, and memory are gaining popularity, and for good reason, as numerous research studies suggest the value of brain games to ward off cognitive decline. Environmental interventions, such as smart-home technologies to set reminders and augment lighting, are becoming more readily available and adaptable to the needs of an aging population. In 2019, Willow Valley Communities engaged Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Mellon University in a study to better understand the practical implementation of music therapy for those experiencing dementia. Now, once again, Willow Valley Communities is collaborating with Carnegie Mellon University in relation to an initiative called AI Caring. Funded by the National Science Foundation, Google, and Amazon, AI Caring is a National Artificial Intelligence Institute harnessing the research efforts of Carnegie Mellon University, Georgia Tech, Oregon State University, the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and Oregon Health & Science University. Its mission is to create the next generation of AI systems to boost quality of life and independence to assist seniors in aging successfully in their homes. Willow Valley Communities’ residents and team members will be able to trial technologies and in-home applications developed by AI Caring and provide feedback to influence the course of their development.

Other uses of technology are being evaluated for routine implementation. In conjunction with a small start-up created by two doctoral candidates from Carnegie Mellon University, Willow Valley Communities plans to trial a robot that will deliver meals, packages, and requested items to residents and team members. Over time, the robot will become more autonomous, independently navigating the environment and monitoring resident behavior. This monitoring would simultaneously improve quality of life for residents and alleviate staff burden by alerting staff to abnormal patterns of behavior that are consistent with symptoms of distress in those living with dementia. It would also help by retaining critical personalized information that can be easily recalled as requested by a team member, such as the resident’s vital signs, next of kin, favorite song, favorite food, or preferred activities.

Brain Tech Center within the Institute at the Memory Care Center

Additionally, the introduction of technology is being used to aid in early detection of memory impairment. As an example, Willow Valley Communities is investigating a computerized self-assessment tool to evaluate several domains of cognitive function. Approximately 30 residents have helped to pilot the new tool to gain a deeper understanding of the tool’s capabilities and to gather resident feedback about the acceptance and user-friendliness of this novel instrument. With earlier detection, residents will gain access to resources sooner in the process of cognitive decline—resources that may help to stave off dementia. At the very least, those experiencing cognitive decline may be prompted to take action to improve their quality of life over the course of disease. These actions may include seeking evaluation and treatment from a neurologist or neuropsychologist onsite at the Assessment and Treatment Center within the Memory Care Center. Willow Valley Communities plans to make self-assessment tools like this one more widely available for use by the greater community—changing the conversation around dementia and promoting brain-healthy communities.

These inspiring actions, coupled with the rapid progress of construction plans, are building momentum and propelling Willow Valley Communities toward a ceremonial groundbreaking event scheduled for Spring 2024.

Assessment and Treatment Space at the Memory Care Center

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