Caring for elder community members

By Michelle Frost

Hidden in plain view, Emerson House is a large brick building nestled among restaurants and shops at 3577 SE Division St., across from an art studio, between thrift stores, and a stone’s throw from coffee and tea shops.  Emerson House is home to 55 residents with some degree of memory loss.

“We deal with people with memory loss and the loss of abilities, so our focus is to make sure they are still having moments of joy and engagement,” says Melissa Fisher, Community Relations Director.

“A typical day begins with breakfast at 8:30, followed by seated exercises and stretching, and activities throughout the day.”

Fisher is a Portland native who has enjoyed working with seniors at Emerson House for the past five years.

Dementia is a general term that refers to a set of symptoms, including memory loss, difficulty socializing in appropriate ways, difficulty manipulating numbers and other intellectual deficits severe enough to affect routine activities of daily living.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and accounts for approximately 75% of the cases among the elderly. The most common signs are memory loss and the loss of practical abilities, which can lead to withdrawal from work or social activities.

Emerson House was founded in 2000 by Kinsel Ameri Properties, Inc. and continues under their local ownership and oversight. Founders Jim Ameri and Alan Kinsel have a strong commitment to quality. They maintain a hands-on presence in the community.

“We are unique in that we have three different residential environments for different stages of dementia, from early stage to late stage,” explains Fisher,

Some residents are more independent and require minimal help while others are totally dependent on staff. Living in the appropriate environment with residents at a similar stage of dementia is a more comfortable fit.

Memory care communities provide a secured environment for persons with dementia that includes person-directed care which promotes resident’s rights, dignity, choice, comfort and independence.

Emerson House has been designed to allow the professional staff to provide comprehensive 24 hour care.

Daily routines are important in limiting confusion and frustration for those with memory impairments.

Residents are encouraged to be self-sufficient for as long as possible.  This may be as simple as serving family-style meals, folding laundry or working in the gardens.

Amenities at Emerson House include three nutritious meals daily, on-site care staff 24/7, award-winning activity program, barrier-free floor plan, in-house beauty/barber shop, monthly visits by Foot Care 4 U and Smiles All Around to name a few of the many services offered for pampering and addressing special needs.

Lindsey Bretzmen, Life Enrichment Director, coordinates regular activities monthly such as ice cream socials, sing-alongs,  and art therapy.

July’s special events will take residents to Sauvie Island and Bonneville Dam. Activities involve paid entertainers and volunteers.

One monthly visitor is a veterinary technician who brings exotic animals for educational show and tell with pocket marsupials, Seymour the Alligator, or any of her 150 animals.

“The old model of care in ‘Old Folks’ Homes’ was a 3 B’s activity schedule: Bible, Bingo & Birthdays,” says Bretzmen. “Our new activities model is the 3 P’s: Pleasure, Purpose and Peace.”

While family may fear they are being selfish in placing a loved one in a memory care community, the reality is quite different. Studies show that people with early to mid-stage dementia actually benefit from being in an environment where there is appropriate, ongoing activity which can delay the progression of the disease.

For info, see or call 503.234.8585.

Caring for elder community members

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