Emeritus Salt Lake focuses on building relationships with residents

Story and photo by IAN SMITH

Emeritus Salt Lake offers care to its residents.

Emeritus Salt Lake offers care to its residents.

Picture yourself as an elder, and you know your time on this earth is decreasing. You know you can no longer take care of yourself. You need assistance. To everyone else, it may be time for a nursing home.

You pack up your stuff. Where did the time go, you keep asking yourself? How did life flash that fast and how has it come to this? You set off in the car that takes you to the home. As you pull up your first impression is that it could work for you. But you still have many questions and not that many answers.

“No one wants to go into a nursing home,” said Anne Palmer Peterson, executive director of the Utah Commission on Aging. The Utah Legislature created the commission in 2005 to address issues related to the fast-growing aging population in the state. Peterson said it is a young state, but it also is the “sixth-fastest aging state in the nation.” Among other things, the commission has studied housing options for older adults. The findings were published in New Trends in Housing for Utah’s Aging Population.

“We want people to be thinking proactively about their futures,” she said.

Even so, it can be difficult to leave all of your memories behind you.

The idea of a “nursing home” isn’t too appealing to many people, though.

Brian Culliton, the executive director at Emeritus Salt Lake at 76 South and 500 East, said people have very different opinions of nursing homes.

Every facility is different, whether it’s a nursing home or assisted living center. Some facilities, like Emeritus, offer help for certain issues residents might be dealing with. Dementia, for example, is taken very seriously at the assisted living facility.

“We provide a family orientation with a caretaker,” Culliton said in a phone interview. “We have a well rounded understanding of what that resident’s day looks like. We want to keep it routine. We have other care providers that will come and talk to give a better understanding of the disease.”

Culliton said the staff and volunteers who work at Emeritus Salt Lake are passionate about the work they do and want nothing more than to help the people they are caring for.

Emeritus Salt Lake is located at 76 South 500 East.

Emeritus Salt Lake is located at 76 South 500 East.

“I’m really passionate about attracting the right [residents],” he said. “It’s that feeling of leaving home if anyone has dementia, you’re leaving your familiar space. You’ve been there for 50-plus years and now you’re going to a new space. It goes back to that care.”

Culliton knows that some older adults are afraid to be alone. But, sometimes that fear prevents people from seeking help.

He said Emeritus Salt Lake aims to offer more than just the borderline help. Staff go above and beyond to help the new residents by developing a personal relationship with them as soon as they walk in the door. Residents are given an orientation and shown around the building.

“With assisted living, every department head goes and introduces themselves and gives them the care that they expect,” Culliton said. “We look at it as kind of like a marriage. Know each other right up front. If we look at the process at the point when somebody applies, we go to their house or hospital and get to know the family immediately and when they move in, we talk about what is best and how to care for the seniors.”

Markel Martinez, a resident assistant at Emeritus Salt Lake, knows how important it is to build relationships. He has had residents find friends at the facility and even fall in love.

“I would want the resident to know that I’m there to help them,” Martinez said. “To be their friend that they can trust and talk to.”

Diagnosing memory loss

by Kelli Coomes

Imagine standing in your entry hall, keys in hand. You can’t remember where you need to go, only that you have some place to be. A few minutes later, you still can’t remember why you’re standing there.

Brian Fisher, an in-home certified nursing assistant, woke at 6 a.m. to find the 85-year-old man he cares for up and ready for work. Since Arvel hasn’t worked for more than 20 years, Fisher took him to McDonald’s instead. Arvel doesn’t care where they’re going, as long as he’s going somewhere.

Later that day, Fisher drove his patient to the doctor’s office. Arvel’s family was having him tested again for Alzheimer’s. Despite previous tests that showed he does not have the disease, his family keeps sending him to the doctor for further testing.

Arvel knows where he is and who the people around him are. He can understand most things that are told him, Fisher said. But what worries his family is that he cannot remember a lot of the little things. Arvel forgets he doesn’t work, so he gets ready when he wakes. He can’t remember where some things in the house are.

Dr. Edward Zamrini is the director of clinical trials at the Center for Alzheimer’s Care, Imaging and Research. Alzheimer’s Disease isn’t just about memory loss, but how much the loss progresses, Zamrini said. Doctors at the clinic look at how frequently a problem occurs and the loss by degrees, such as remembering where one’s keys are to where one’s car is located.

“To lose one’s memory is the ultimate loss,” said Scott D. Wright, director of the Gerontology Interdisciplinary Center at the University of Utah. “It’s like they’re dying twice.”

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of memory loss in roughly 50 percent of cases. But it isn’t the only reason for memory loss.

“We jump to it too soon,” Wright said. There are about 25 other factors that can cause memory loss that are ruled out first. These include diet, diseases, stress and medications.

Zamrini said some health issues that cause memory loss include Lewy body disease and dementias like frontotemporal dementia.

Lewy body disease is a disease that is commonly mistaken for Alzheimer’s. Johns Hopkins Medicine states that like Alzheimer’s, Lewy body patients have memory loss, but there are other symptoms that distinguish it such as trouble with attention, hallucinations and symptoms that are similar to Parkinson’s disease. There are often problems with sleeping, falling and depression.

According to the Mayo Clinic, dementia describes a group of symptoms, both social and intellectual, that interfere with daily life.

Dementia, after several tests, can be diagnosed with complete accuracy about 90 percent of the time. However, dementia can lead to and be a symptom of Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s can only be diagnosed with complete accuracy after death. According to the Mayo Clinic, a microscopic exam of the brain is the only way to accurately diagnose the disease. A brain with Alzheimer’s has plaques and tangles that are visible only with a microscope.

One form of dementia that can be tested accurately is frontotemporal dementia. The Mayo Clinic notes that it is commonly mistaken for Alzheimer’s, but it occurs at a much younger age.

The starting age for Alzheimer’s is roughly 65, with incidents increasing every five years. By age 85, people are 40 percent to 50 percent likely to develop it.

Frontotemporal dementia typically develops between the ages of 40 and 70.
Symptoms of frontotemporal dementia vary according to what part of the brain is affected. The term is used for disorders that affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain that are associated with personalities, behaviors and language.

Depression is another cause of memory loss. Zamrini said depression often causes forgetfulness. As people get older, they tend to lose their loved ones. Friends and family members die. This can create or add to depression. Often they stop caring about memories, or forget them because they become too painful. Often the memory loss is self-inflicted.

The hardest part for the families of Alzheimer’s patients, Zamrini said, is that they’re physically fit but not mentally well. This distinction is what’s helping doctors re-diagnose patients. Alzheimer’s only affects memory, Zamrini said. Diseases like Lewy body and dementia have some physical symptoms.

The testing for the other diseases is progressing and better diagnoses between them are increasing. Early detection helps with all these issues, Zamrini said.