A few weeks ago, I had a wonderful opportunity to visit a memory care / Alzheimer’s facility in my area. I was invited by the facility administrator to come up on a Thursday morning in April 2011 – the purpose was to take photos/videos of her facility, and to interview her on a variety of topics, to showcase her expertise, and facility.
When I arrived, we spent a few minutes chatting, and introducing ourselves. Then, she took me on a tour of her facility.
The facility itself has only been operating for 14 months, and the project itself it only about 3 years old – which includes the planning, financing, and building phases.
This facility is privately owned, and the design is unique. The administrator told me that they worked with an architect who has had a great deal of experience in building assisted living facilities, and due to the soft housing market – he was looking for work. So, he got the job.
From my perspective, the home was wonderful and useful in almost every respect. Every bit of the design seemed to have had a great deal of thought and consideration put into it. For example – the home’s interior hallways form a circle, so residents are encouraged to walk around, interacting with their housemates, and also to get some exercise. This seemed very effective.
However, I was quite surprised when she showed me one of the main bathrooms, with a beautiful walk-in bathtub that was being used instead as a towel storage area. This struck me as being weird, so I asked about it.
The administrator told me that of all of the things she spent money on for the home – the walk-in bathtubs were a complete waste of money. The reason? Most Alzheimer’s/dementia residents under her care are frightened by them – they don’t like being submerged in deep water, and they can be very clausterphobic. These tubs are unlike what her residents have been used to in their pre-dementia lives, so they prefer not to use them.
I thought this was extremely interesting. Instead, she told me, her residents all prefer showers, and her staff basically ‘gets in’ with them and helps to scrub and clean them – which, after the initial modesty wears off, and the resident becomes comfortable with this, is very enjoyable to them. And, there is no ‘rising water’ to be frightened by.
I do know this – walk-in bathtubs can be very useful for many seniors who are not suffering from dementia. They can be very easy to get in and out of, and are probably much safer than a regular bathtub – so they do have their place in the world of seniors and assisted living. However, I could very easily see the point that they could be very intimidating to someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s.