As an expert on dementia care, Sheila Carter knows that music is important to set a mood, create energy and provide a calming environment, and that the brain function that’s retained the longest is the part that relates to music.
“Familiar music can reach a person even when their dementia is advanced,” says Carter, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in community health nursing administration. “I’ve seen people who are essentially unresponsive to their name or touch, who responded in some way when their favorite music was played. They might open their eyes or smile, or pat their hand or foot, or even hum or sing along.”
In August of 2012, when Carter and Co-founder Adam Johnson opened a 36-bed residential memory care facility in southwest Jefferson County, she decided to name it Heartsong Memory Care. The following January, they opened Heartsong Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) on that campus. In November of 2020 they opened Heartsong East ADHC to accommodate a need for this service on the east end of Louisville. Specializing in care of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia and cognitive impairment, Heartsong East ADHC offers programming, Monday through Friday, to promote maximum brain functioning.
“Activities stimulate the brain through memory and reminiscence, problem-solving games, spiritual and emotional support, and physical exercise – all cleverly disguised as fun,” Carter says. Staff members provide needed assistance with personal care and hygiene, and they are eager to explore out-of-the-box services for those caregivers who may need evening or overnight hours.
“I invite calls or emails with feedback on helpful services families would like us to add,” Carter says.
At Heartsong, the staff emphasizes practical applications of researched-based protocols to create an environment that minimizes anxiety.
“The loss of brain function causes anxiety for people with dementia, both as an emotional reaction to awareness of their own decline, and as a direct result of damage to areas of the brain that control emotion and judgment,” Carter says. “We carefully assess situations to react quickly when needed, and avoid overreacting when doing so will only exacerbate the problem.”
By taking most situations in stride, gently redirecting individuals as needed, or giving the person their space, most episodes of combativeness are tempered. However, it takes training and patience to develop appropriate approaches, and each situation must be individualized.
This is why family members like Carol O. trust Heartsong with the care of their loved ones.
“I can focus on my job without worrying about my husband, knowing he’s safe with people who care about him,” Carol says.
Rachel W. agrees.
“The atmosphere is exactly what I wanted for my husband,” Rachel says. “The staff is friendly and knowledgeable. They keep him engaged with fun activities all day. In the mornings he tells me how excited he is to go see his friends at the fun place. As a wife and caregiver, this means the world to me. Now we both can get the extra care we need.”
Through the years, Heartsong families have reiterated their gratitude.
“They thank us over and over again for being a caring family to both the resident and their family members, and for giving them the opportunity to vent, cry and question,” Carter says.
Andrea W., impact board chairwoman for the Greater Kentucky and Southern Indiana Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, says her mom attended Heartsong East ADHC a few days per week and it provided her with socialization including activities, one-on-one attention when needed, and educated staff on the Alzheimer’s/dementia population.
“She even made friends with some of the other attendees,” Andrea says. “The staff’s professionalism and compassion are what helped us make the decision to place mom in Heartsong Memory Care, even though it isn’t the closest to our home. Having our mom in the best care was most important.”
Marva S. worked at Heartsong Memory Care as a nurse during the height of COVID-19 and was impressed with the level of compassion that the staff members showed.
“When my mother needed an adult day health center, I immediately called Sheila at Heartsong,” she says. “My father and I have been very satisfied with my mother’s care.”
Many caregivers say they wish they’d brought their loved ones to Heartsong sooner. Carter often hears, “You give me peace of mind.”
Heartsong East Adult Day Health Care is located at 10720 Plantside Drive in Louisville, KY. For more information, call 502-935-3300 or visit heartsong-mc.com.