United Minds – a Social Approach to Cognitive Care

“Labels can become so frustrating, as instead of being Jim, John, Lucy or Ann, you suddenly morph into a person with dementia first, followed by your name and other qualities. It’s as if the rest of the person has vanished into thin air, never to return.” – Person with dementia (World Alzheimer Report, 2012).

Dementia is an emotionally charged word that conjures up a variety of pre-conceived notions and cultural stereotypes. There are more than 100 types of dementia and United approaches dementia care with a new view in mind – one that abandons old ideas and methods in favour of an openness to new ways of helping people with dementia live a full and more positive life.

Musicians from the Calgary Philharmonic perform

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

Under United Active Living’s breakthrough United Minds program, socialization and community are the focus rather than segregation and medication.

“We operate under a social model rather than a medical model of care which means that we see the whole person, their interests, their personality and life history, not just their diagnosis,” said Mariana Hudson, United Minds coordinator for United’s Fish Creek community. “Medication, behaviour control and isolation aren’t part of how we operate. To provide a social approach means that we ask our residents what they need to live well in our community. We prioritize their strengths, abilities and interests. All of our programs can be customized and evolve to meet their needs.”

Residents with dementia live on the same floors as everyone else; they eat in the same spaces and attend the same programs. Everyone has the same opportunities to engage in all aspects of life in our communities.

The approach and benefits of the United Minds program are summed up in a new online brochure available for viewing or downloading on the United website.

United Active Living thinks differently about aging. Our new United Minds brochure hopes to change the conversation about dementia by discussing the challenges and the opportunities that dementia presents. The brochure discusses the impact of dementia and offers an overview of the various services and programs offered by the United Minds team.

United Minds is a unique program for residents with cognitive impairments that provides programming allowing them to live fuller more connected lives. If you’re early in your dementia journey, you’re given support to socialize and attend any program both inside and outside our community. For those that need more connections throughout the day, our smaller programs assist residents in living active spiritual, emotional and intellectual lives.

A resident looks over a collector car at Heritage Park

A visit to Calgary’s Heritage Park brings back fond memories

“The social and emotional needs of our residents take priority and we work every day with residents in the program to ensure they have every opportunity to engage in our creative programs and activities, outings and other aspects of an active lifestyle,” said Bridget Coulter, United Minds coordinator at United’s Garrison Green community.

Here’s an example from the brochure that talks about how the United Minds program can support our residents:

Emily has a difficult time remembering how to get to the dining room or to the theatre for programs from her suite. After discussing her challenges with the United Minds coordinator, Emily is able to go to the music programs and enjoy the friends she is making through the more intimate programs designed to facilitate community and connection. When it’s lunchtime, United Minds staff help her decide what she wants to eat and how it’s best served. The same staff escort her to her suite for a rest and are back later that afternoon to take her to a another program in the theatre.

A family member of a resident in the program said recently: “We can’t believe the change in mum. It’s amazing. I haven’t seen her this happy in years.”

“Just because someone sees the world differently than we do doesn’t mean they don’t want to continue to be valuable, contributing members of the community,” said Mariana. “Everyone has a strength even when other aspects are failing. They still have a lot of life to live.”

“We find out what connects them and anchors them and then we work on that,” added Bridget. “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.”

Take a look at the brochure and contact us using the form below 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.

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Imagine! Live the life you've always dreamed of at one of our United Active Living communities. Please contact us today to learn more about our two communities Garrison Green or Fish Creek

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! 

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