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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Specialized center helps seniors with memory loss

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By John Keahey

The Salt Lake Tribune

Provo • Helen Hassell, all smiles and with a little help from her friend, pushed her way through the front door of the Aspen Senior Center housed in a former church meetinghouse.

The 89-year-old Orem woman was looking forward to her time in the unique center designed to help people with early symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia. She sat down at a round table in the midst of four other senior women and three staff members and jumped right in to play a round of memory games.

The large room, once the church’s sanctuary, is full of comfortable couches and chairs, along with tables overflowing with a variety of crafts that would appeal to both men and women. A quilting frame sits in the middle, next to a pool table. A donated organ is on the low stage, along with a piano. In another room, a library is being put together. A television room packed with comfortable chairs is nearby.

On the other side of the building is a snoezelen therapy room, so-named after a European concept. Designed as a multi-sensory quiet space, it is used to help settle clients who may be undergoing a severe dementia attack. Calming music can be played and different relaxing scents are available. A soft daybed rests along a wall.

Back in the main room, and within a half hour of Helen’s arrival, the women and their coaches were seated in an open circle, moving arms and legs in a relaxed series of exercises.

“Helen has a short-term memory problem,” said caregiver Nancy Pomeroy. After the exercise session and lunch, she listened to the other women talking about their lives, and it triggered memories of her own that she shared with the group.

“That’s exactly what she needs.”

Helen lives alone. Her three sons, all living out of state, rotate monthly visits of a week at a time to help their mom with house cleaning and bill paying, said Pomeroy. But Helen gets lonely at other times, and her age and medical conditions keep her from going to traditional senior centers run by counties and other nonprofit groups. That and her mild dementia.
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