W MI memory care facility earns coveted designation

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Michigan senior services provider is the first in Michigan, and only third in the nation, to receive a special accreditation for dementia care.

In November, Holland Home became an Aware Designated Organization, a certification awarded through Teepa Snow’s Positive Approach to Care. Snow is one of the world’s leading educators in dementia care.

“It’s a huge honor and we’ve been really excited about it,” Holland Home Director of Quality and Education Rosemary Apol-Hoezee told News 8. “We’ve been working for probably the last three and a half years, working hard on implementing the Teepa Snow methodology.”

The model is based on building a relationship between the patient and caregiver and ways to approach someone going through brain changes that impact their personality and memory.

“It very much informs how you approach someone physically, what’s their line of vision and where are we in contrast to that,” Apol-Hoezee explained. “The more that we just talk to somebody that has dementia, they’re not able to comprehend all of that, so we start using a lot of visual cues as the disease progresses.”

Adjusting to the reality the disease creates for someone becomes a factor in some of the hardest decisions people will face for their loved ones.

“In all honesty, it’s very heartbreaking to watch someone that you love go through this disease because you know they’ll never get better and what you want to do is have them have the best-case scenario for their life for the rest of their days,” Gerilyn May told News 8.

May’s mother, Helen Jane Janicki, lived at Holland Home for four years before passing away in June 2018.

Janicki was a teacher, and as the dementia progressed, she believed the facility was her classroom.

“They met her there and they just let her believe that she was in a school with the kids and the kids she loved,” May explained. “And I love that they met her where she was, they accepted that.”

May was so impressed by the comfort, she began working for Holland Home after her mom passed away. Her experience translated into advocacy and raising awareness for how to treat dementia patients.

Apol-Hoezee explained the approach is simply ensuring dignity is not lost.

“We know that even in the late stage of the disease, people still need to have a sense of purpose, that they’re valued, that they’re loved and we now know some of the ways we can do that,” Apol-Hoezee said.