West Haven
A resident cuddles up with a kitten during an event outside West Haven.

everyone gets involved. Residents either join the whole group or are given one-on-one attention by a life enrichment specialist. Most residents choose to socialize and integrate with others. If severe Alzheimer’s residents are found to be anxious being among others, they may take a walk with a staff member. Residents are engaged in group activities such as Zumba, Aging with Grace exercises, or Time Slips. It may simply be entering into conversation or simply reading a poem for stimulation of the brain. Residents visit outside places of interest such as a strawberry farm, take a nature hike, go to a nature center, or a car show. All are given the same opportunity. Music entertainment is brought in often and is found to be great therapy, Doolittle said.

Becoming a family

As a residential home we have become family, Doolittle said. Every four months a special meal is held with family members marking special occasions such as Valentines Day at which 2012 event 124 people were served. Different themes are celebrated throughout the year.

Having doubled its physical size at West Haven the dementia and Alzheimer’s patient load has increased exponentially. We are seeing so much more of it at different levels. All shifts are busy. Our fast growth in this specialty area has prompted us to hire a licensed practical nurse night supervisor, Doolittle said.

“Dementia care is what we specialize in. It is my passion,” Doolittle said. The ministry of caring for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia was exercised at West Haven from its onset. It has an assisted living dementia unit which is not secured and two Alzheimer’s units which are secured. “Patients residing here do not have to be concerned about transferring to another facility. When needed, we are able to bring in therapy and hospice. Patients do not have to go to a nursing home for this. There is very little care that we cannot give here and we do a great job of it,” Doolittle said.

“The life enrichment department is outstanding. The staff shares the same passion in caring for the residents that I have. They and I have personal reasons for doing what we do. It took time to build up the staff and now everyone works together

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and they share what they are doing with staff from the other sites (Allouez Parkside Village in Green Bay, Birch Creek in DePere, and Bishop’s Court in Green Bay). They are the best working group with which I have ever worked.”

Sitting down with the residents is unwinding time for Doolittle who said she cherishes the hand holding, the hugs and smiles she gets. “I never say begrudgingly that I have to go to work today. I have been doing this for three and a half years and still love it and its challenges. I went through this with my own parents. I was once on the outside faced with placing my parents in a facility for Alzheimer’s and dementia treatment.”

When Doolittle’s father was dying she thanked him for giving her the gift of caring for him and others suffering Alzheimer’s. She promised she would take care of her mother and a million people like her. “My heart goes out to families and residents because it is a devastating disease. Its declining can be rapid or slow. I honor my parents by what I am doing here and live and act in accordance with what my mom and dad would want. In caring for the residents, they become our parents, brothers and sisters.”