As we age, so do our loved ones, which can bring serious health problems into our everyday lives. There are an estimated 5.3 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, and White Bear Lake has its share. That’s where Prelude’s Memory Care Cottages come in.
Opened in March, the Cottages are Prelude’s second location and third building in the Twin Cities, the other location being in Woodbury. But the company saw a need, says community outreach director Randy Gnadke. “There just aren’t a lot of options in memory care specifically” in White Bear, he says. “We felt there was a need … where it’s a home environment.”
There are three cottages at the White Bear location, with two that house 12 residents, and one all-male cottage housing six. The rooms are simple bedrooms, not apartments, with shared dining, TV, and sitting areas and an enclosed courtyard, meant to keep the residents social and active. Those 30 residents will have access to a number of amenities, including the “hallmark, or pillar of Prelude,” Gnadke says: the spiritual care program. The Cottages have a full-time chaplain who leads Bible studies and weekly chapel, makes one-on-one visits with residents and more. “Then also for the residents and family members, the support is there for visits or counseling,” Gnadke says.
As for how the residents spend their time, “we don’t have a long list of activities that you see in some buildings,” Gnadke says. “It’s a little more intentional.” The Acts of Kindness program instead focuses on the residents’ strengths and abilities, and how they can serve each other and serve the community. That includes working with Meals on Wheels, the meal-delivery service. Residents will work on “something small like decorating the bags that the recipients get,” he says. Other activities include writing letters to veterans, decorating cookies for local firefighters and police officers, and putting together snack bags for at-risk kids. The activities are chosen “so they can find purpose and meaning in their daily life” and not just sit idly, Gnadke says.
That’s why Kit O’Grady and her family chose the Memory Care Cottages for her mother, Barbara, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s seven years ago and had been living in California with her husband. With Kit O’Grady and her brother living in the Twin Cities, they decided it was time for a care facility, but didn’t want something with an “institutional feel,” she says.
“We wanted something that followed her to end of life—more like a ‘home’ feel,” she says. O’Grady is a nurse and had worked in memory care units, so she knew what she was looking for, and the Cottages had it. Volunteers from Hope Academy come in regularly, kids come in to sing—“things that keep them interactive,” she says.
She, like any son or daughter, was still nervous. “I was worried [whether] I made the right decision for my mom,” she says. But after a while that feeling passed, and “I can’t say enough great things.”
Making family comfortable is also one of Prelude’s goals. “Our mission is valuing the elderly and helping families become family who are not caregivers anymore—they are son or daughter or spouse,” Gnadke says.
Of the amenities, Gnadke says, they aren’t things, they’re the people involved. “With dementia, sometimes there’s anxiety or depression, so [it’s best] just to have a calming environment.” The paint color was chosen to create calm, and they even have a therapy dog-in-training, Piper.
With all the residents are going through, Gnadke says he just wants to “have them be content and know that they are loved.” To have them know, “these people are about me and want what’s best for me.”