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Memorable care: Wellness Center creates healing environment for patients

Monday February 11, 2013
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Kathleen Valentine, RN
On a daily basis, Florida Atlantic Universityís Louis and Anne Green Memory and Wellness Center of the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing is fulfilling its mission to use evidence-based interventions to serve people living with mild to moderate memory disorders. But the busy center also serves as a learning environment for the Boca Raton-based collegeís students and as a research setting for faculty members to study the effects of chronic disease on memory loss and caregiver communication. Now, the center has become the first in the state to receive designation from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Division of Health Quality Assurance as a Specialized Alzheimerís Services Adult Day Care Center.

"It brings distinction to adult day centers that meet the requirements," said Kathleen Valentine, RN, PhD, director of the Memory and Wellness Center, adding FAUís facility was exceeding the Alzheimerís services standards put into place in July by the Florida legislature.


A center participant strings pearls to make a necklace.
(Photo courtesy of Florida Atlantic University)
The standards call for a nurse to be on-site daily and to have specific dementia-related training; a staff-to-patient ratio of no more than 1-to-5; a caregiver education program; and a daily schedule for patients with at least 70% evidence-based therapeutic activities, such as painting lessons, chair yoga and cognitive stimulation — which can include a conversation with a journalist.

Former CNN journalist Jacobo Goldstein, who has volunteered at the center weekly for the past eight years, leads discussions with participants on current events. He blends todayís headlines with his recollection of events he covered during 18 years inside the White House. Goldstein finds it most rewarding when "people correct me or someone will remember a name I had forgotten. Itís amazing when you get them interested. And when they applaud, thereís not enough money in the world to pay for that."

The center also draws experts from throughout the university who volunteer to talk about music, art or other fields.

"Because we are academically affiliated, it gives them a way to get out of the house in a way that feels familiar," Valentine said. "Many are used to going to classes or structured clubs. Itís a mix of intellectual and artistic stimulation and overall health and safety."


A staff member helps a center participant learn to paint.
(Photo courtesy of Florida Atlantic University)
Belinda Murray, RN, charge nurse, completes an evaluation of new participants. She consults with the personís primary care provider and with Maria Ordonez, DNP, ARNP/GNP-BC, a geriatric nurse practitioner at the center, during conferences in which the team helps participants and their families plan for current and future needs.

"Itís a transformative practice and enriching, and it gives me an opportunity to grow as a professional," Ordonez said. "We are experts in the field, but itís the application of that knowledge to that individual. Every day is a different experience."

The center opened in 2001 with grant funding to serve eight people twice a week. It has grown to serve about 60 participants daily.

Murray said she enjoys working in the collaborative, caring environment, where little things, such as taking time to talk, mean so much to participants. "Sometimes, they cannot thank you, but a smile or a touch means a lot," Murray said.

The college is based on the art and science of human caring, and the center offers an opportunity to put that philosophy into action and live it daily, Valentine said. Additionally, students from nursing and other disciplines complete internships and gain clinical experiences at the center.

"The center is part of our vibrant learning laboratory," Valentine said. "Working with geriatrics and people with a memory concern is important, meaningful, science-based work that makes a difference in peopleís lives."

For information, visit FAU.edu/MemoryWellnessCenter.


Debra Anscombe Wood, RN, is a freelance writer. Post a comment below or email editorSouth@nurse.com.