United Minds: A Life Affirming and Meaningful Program for People Living with Dementia

Living with dementia is life changing and everyone experiences the journey differently. Regardless of having a diagnosis, people with dementia deserve to have a good quality of life, whatever that may look like for them.

United Minds is a service offered at United communities for residents living with memory loss or some form of dementia. Our ultimate hope is by getting to know the resident, we can ensure that they are living life to its fullest within our environment.

The United Minds team empowers individuals to make decisions throughout their day, direct their care and services, live lives that are reflective of their personal preferences and goals, and have the opportunity to not be defined by their diagnosis.

Musicians from the Calgary Philharmonic perform
Musicians from the Calgary Philharmonic perform at United’s Garrison Green community

“We don’t rely on formal cognitive assessments to determine resident suitability for our community or their level of service. Instead we spend the time getting to know them and how they spend their day,” said Bridget Coulter, United Minds coordinator. “Our United Minds team connects with each resident and our programs promote a sense of personal achievement and belonging. This is often lost with a diagnosis when someone is no longer seen as a vibrant contributing individual.”

United Minds offers small, intimate programs which are led by dedicated program facilitators who tailor the experience to the resident’s abilities and interests. This ensures their active participation and encourages them to be present in the moment. United Minds has a variety of customizable services available to meet the needs of each person.

Upon move in, residents who require the United Minds service are invited into the United Minds Welcome Program to ease their transition into our communities. In the same way you prepare your garden soil in the spring, our three-month Welcome Program is intended to set up new residents to thrive in their new home. Our other available programs support residents in getting rooted into the community, branching out and connecting with others to flourish.

Here’s what a day in the life of two United Minds residents might look like. Jerry has a difficult time navigating familiar places. She often gets confused about where her kitchen is located. Through the United Minds service, she is able to attend the intimate music programs she enjoys and arrive at the bistro at her leisure free of stress.

Alice has always been a shy person and never one for joining clubs. Alice receives one-on-one programs from the United Minds team because of her preference for quiet interaction. She enjoys the personal touch of a private program brought to her suite where she can relax with a United Minds staff member as they explore Spain and armchair travel together.

Claudia Collins sits with her mom Elsie at Garrison Green
Claudia Collins says her mom Elsie has really come alive at Garrison Green

The benefits of the United Minds program are vast. Staff and families alike have shared stories of the positive changes they have seen in the residents because of their involvement with United Minds.

Claudia Collins is the daughter of 91-year-old Garrison Green resident Elsie Collins. She believes that her mom has blossomed with the support given by the United Minds team.

“We wanted her to live in a place where she wouldn’t have to be on a locked ward. She is now living in her own one bedroom suite with regular support from staff and happily participating in daily, stimulating activates that she loves.” Claudia said her mom is making jokes, following conversational threads, attending two exercise classes per day, singing with a residents’ choir, having meals with friends, going to a music therapy group, and attending musical and cultural events.

Elsie with her music therapist
Elsie with her music therapist, Elaine Cheung of JB Music Therapy

“We can’t believe the change in mom,” said Claudia. “Rather than living on her own at home, which can be socially isolating, she has really come alive. The staff have been amazing! Everyone has been so friendly, patient, welcoming and kind. Mom calls the staff her friends. They gently and consistently monitor Mom’s well-being and get her to activities and meals. Mom feels safe and cared for; she knows she matters. There is tremendous dignity and fun in the program.”

“Just because someone sees the world differently than we do doesn’t mean they can’t continue to be valuable, contributing members of the community,” said Bridget. “Everyone has a strength even when other skills may be declining. They still have a lot of life to live. We find out what connects them and anchors them and then we work on that. It doesn’t take much to find out what their passion is and then we focus on how we continue to support that passion and those strengths.”

The approach and benefits of the United Minds program are summed up in an online brochure available for viewing or downloading on the United
website. Take a look at the brochure and contact us if you would like to know more about our unique approach to dementia care. Check out this blog article on resources that can help you make the right choices for your family.

Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help! 

To learn more about life at United’s Garrison Green, watch this short video.

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