United Minds – A Social Approach to Cognitive Decline

United Minds is an innovative program you won’t find anywhere else. It is designed to provide a safe, nurturing environment where seniors with dementia and other cognition challenges can enjoy a positive life experience.

United’s communities provide a sense of home and belonging, which are important if you’re living with dementia. We have designed community spaces to encourage all residents to explore, create, engage and relax at any time.

Read more about United Minds by downloading a PDF of the brochure here, watch the United Minds video,  click on the headlines below to expand each section’s information.

Getting to Know Dementia

Dementia describes a set of symptoms that are caused by different disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease or stroke that affect the brain. These symptoms may include things like memory loss, difficulties with language or problem solving. They are severe enough to interfere with daily life.

Research confirms that getting a diagnosis of dementia is the single greatest fear that people have about growing older. This is due in part to a widespread lack of awareness and understanding about the disease. This fear is the reason that the symptoms of dementia are commonly misinterpreted to be a normal part of aging or as a sign of mental illness. The truth is that the symptoms of dementia are caused by progressive damage to the brain.

The stigma around dementia can create a negative reputation that discredits individuals living with the disease. It prevents them from fully participating in all aspects of their lives.

“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 (Alzheimer’s Disease International (2012), World Alzheimer Report.)

It doesn’t have to be that way.

The reality is that as of 2016, there are 13,000 individuals living with some form of dementia in Calgary.*

This disease can affect us all, regardless of our health, social status, gender or occupation. The numbers tell the story. Your risk of getting dementia increases as you age. The disease impacts 1 in 11 older adults over 65 and 1 in 3 older adults over the age of 80.**

While these statistics may seem discouraging, it’s important to know that there is still life with dementia. As our aging population is growing it’s arguably more important than ever before to consider how the disease will impact your life.

What are the things most important to you to live well?

We recognize that living with dementia is life changing. You may feel a range of emotions when you first get the diagnosis. Now you know that your increased forgetfulness or difficulty finding the right word is caused by a disease. But keep in mind that your dementia journey is unique and you still deserve to have a good quality of life, whatever that may mean to you.

Living with dementia does not mean you have to stop being who you are. No matter where you are on your dementia journey, you are still entitled and able to have new adventures, to make new friends and to learn new things.

As dementia progresses, you will experience changes and find that things that were once simple tasks can become more difficult. At United, we have purposely designed our environments, our United Minds program and our specialized staff education to support you in maintaining your independence along your journey.

“Dementia is a shift in the way a person experiences the world.” Dr. Al Power

*Statistics and Projected Growth report, Alzheimer Society Calgary

**The Impact of Dementia on Canadian Society, 2010, Alzheimer Society of Canada

Living Well in Our Community

Physical environments are now understood to be a valuable resource in promoting well-being for people with dementia. Environments have the power to give independence and support social connections.

United has intentionally designed its buildings to enhance residents’ autonomy. Spaces are available for you to explore, create, engage and relax in at any time. All residents have full access to every aspect of our community, whether you want to be immersed in a crowd or relax in a quiet, intimate space – you decide.

Environments can also promote safety and security. United uses multiple strategies including on-site technology and a highly educated staff to support your safety and well-being.

Community living is about more than just a building.

It’s about the opportunities to meet others and develop meaningful relationships. No matter where you are on your dementia journey, research indicates that you remain fully capable of forming and benefitting from social relationships in the community.

If you love the opera, we have opportunities for you to experience live performances by esteemed performers from across the country. If you’ve always wanted to try pottery, painting or yoga, our full-time practicing artists and programming staff can help you nourish those interests. Maybe you’re a foodie? Our chefs offer top quality cuisine crafted with local fresh ingredients that change seasonally.

We are an inclusive community.

Unlike other older adult communities that segregate residents based on their cognitive or physical abilities, United chooses not to do this. Residents with dementia live on the same floors as everyone else, they eat in the same spaces and attend the same programs. Couples stay together even if they have differing needs.

We believe that creating inclusive environments that support and value people living with dementia helps them reach their full potential and avoids causing needless disability.

Diversity makes our communities stronger and more vibrant. Research shows that there are many benefits of community engagement for people living with dementia such as:

  • An increase in positive emotions
  • An improvement of daily functioning
  • A decrease in boredom and loneliness
  • A promoted sense of identity and belonging
  • An enhanced quality of life

Staff are a part of your community too.

Our staff are equipped with the best education and training so that they can support you in every aspect of your life.

We have developed a unique dementia program that enables all of our staff from our housekeepers to our servers to help you achieve the best quality of life. This nine-part dementia education series covers topics such as understanding dementia, the importance of good nutrition and how to enhance communication.

What is United Minds?

United Minds is an additional service offered at United communities for residents experiencing memory loss or living with some form of dementia.

Although residents have access to a wide variety of engaging programs through our general community calendar, United Minds programming is different. Smaller more intimate programs are led by dedicated program facilitators who tailor the experience to your abilities and interests. In this way we promote socialization, active participation, and encourage you to be present in the moment.

We do not rely on the results of a formal cognitive assessment; instead we spend the time getting to know you and learn your unique strengths and abilities. Through observation and conversations you help us to determine what programs are the right fit by telling us who you are and what you are capable of. We build our program plan to your strengths not your losses.

Our dedicated, knowledgeable team members come from diverse career backgrounds. They receive specialized ongoing education on topics related to cognition, independence and program facilitation. Our team consistently consults current research and best practices to enhance the programs we offer.

Our goal is to support you to maintain your independence so that you can engage in the community and benefit from all of its positive aspects.

No one knows better than you what living well looks like.

You inform us about what wellness means to you. Knowing what is important to you or how you enjoy spending time now will help shape the support that the United Minds team can offer you in achieving your goals. Together we can create a wellness plan that reflects your way of living.

We know that dementia not only affects you but also the people around you. We welcome the people that are important to you to be involved in the community as well. If you choose, they are invited to attend our programs and take advantage of our educational opportunities.

“We can’t believe the change in Mum. It’s amazing! She says many times how safe she feels and how happy she is.” – Family member of current United Minds resident.

Overview of Our Services

In line with the International Council on Active Aging’s recommendations for wellness programming, our United Minds staff offer programming that connects with all aspects of your well-being (see United Minds Programs).

We believe that you are the architect of your life. You inform us about your preferences, likes and dislikes to design the programs that are going to best support you. Engagement in our programs benefits cognitive abilities and quality of life.

This is a list of the services provided by the United Minds team:

United Minds Welcome Program

In the same way that you prepare your garden soil in the spring, our Welcome Program is intended to set you up to thrive in our community. It is designed to ease your transition as you become familiar with your new home. During a three-month period our staff spend time with you building a relationship and giving you the time to establish yourself within the community.

Near the end of the three-month Welcome Program, we will discuss a plan for ongoing support. To be fully supported in United’s inclusive community, one of the following services will be customized to meet your needs and reviewed regularly.

Getting Rooted

Getting Rooted allows you to navigate a new environment and connect with other people so that you can take full advantage of all that this community has to offer. This service provides you with a calendar review and offers you reminders to events so that you can enjoy community life.

Branching Out

This service is a way for you to branch out and connect with others in a more intimate and meaningful setting. We use a mix of small, personalized groups and slightly larger social gatherings to engage you and strengthen your sense of belonging. We offer a variety of programs that range from current events to music appreciation.

Blooming Architect

As the designer of your own experience, you can work with us to create the right programming that ensures your skills and talents flourish and bloom. If you enjoy spending time on your own, you might prefer the companionship of our staff through an individualized program. This can be held in your suite or in an intimate area of the building.

Through a combination of conversation and therapeutic strategies, we can explore your interests – from an opera in Milan to brainteasers – in a way that engages and excites you.

United Minds Programs

The programs available to residents of United Minds services are based on the concept of whole-person wellness. By structuring our programs around you, we aim to promote positive living and enhance purpose and meaning.

(click photo to download a PDF of the chart)

A Day in the Life of a United Minds Resident

Meet John

John wants to attend community programs but he is aware that he needs reminders because he often forgets appointments.

John and the United Minds team review the program calendar together to decide what he is interested in attending. A staff member will also call him about programs and activities that they know he enjoys.

Meet Emily

Emily has a difficult time navigating familiar places. She often gets confused about where her suite is located.

Through escorts and reminder calls provided by the United Minds team, Emily attends the intimate music programs she enjoys and arrives at the bistro at her leisure and free of stress.

Meet Alice

Alice has always been a shy person and never one for joining clubs. Alice is receiving individual support from United Minds because she prefers 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.