A time-honored song from the 1940s says it all: “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.” Studies have found that actively fostering positive emotions can boost the immune system, stave off depression, and enhance health and quality of life overall.
Choosing a positive perspective
“Every person—no matter what age or health status—has the potential for wellness,” says Callie Whitwell, chief operating officer and founding partner of Lifetime Wellness. In business since 2005, the company provides wellness and recreation services to skilled nursing, assisted living, rehabilitation, and memory care facilities throughout Texas and Oklahoma. “Developing a positive outlook can fight diseases, speed up the healing process, and avoid returns to the hospital.”
Lifetime Wellness is a partner organization with StoneGate Senior Living, a leading provider of senior living services in Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma. “StoneGate leaders launched our program 12 years ago, far ahead of their peer organizations. Today, the company has wellness programs in most of its 43 facilities. Clearly, StoneGate is committed to person-centered care and continues to see the benefits of these initiatives for long-term and short-term residents alike.”
Caring for the whole person
Lifetime Wellness offers a full menu of meaningful activities, from health education and fitness programs to art, music, nature, and cognitive programs.
“As wellness professionals, we look at the whole person, striving to help each resident not only physically, but emotionally, intellectually, vocationally, socially, and spiritually,” Whitwell explains. “Our program focuses on all these areas, with the goal of improving physical health, mental outlook, and social belonging.”
“When you’re in a care facility, the focus is often on what’s wrong with you—your disability or clinical need. We focus on what’s right with you and how we can help you improve your quality of life, continue to do what you enjoy, and adopt a positive mindset.”
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Creating a wellness team
The Lifetime Wellness program is delivered by a multidisciplinary team comprised of life enrichment and wellness coordinators, music therapists, chaplains, and recreation specialists. Staffing is customized to each facility based on the needs of the resident population.
“At all StoneGate locations, we strive to increase the healthcare literacy of everyone we serve,” Whitwell explains. “Whether they are in short-term rehabilitation or are long-term care residents, our goal is to give them the tools to develop healthy behaviors, enhance adherence to their care plans, and have an abiding awareness of what will improve their well-being.”
Cultivating memories through music
A key StoneGate initiative for connecting with the whole person is Music & Memory™. This transformational program offers customized music to residents, many of whom suffer from a wide range of cognitive and physical challenges. Staff consult with each resident and the resident’s family to create a personalized playlist, delivered on iPods and other digital devices. Favorite songs typically span all chapters of a resident’s life, sparking renewed meaning and connection.
Music & Memory is based on neuroscience research that highlights the therapeutic effects of personalized music. Whitwell describes the effects of the program as “often miraculous.” “In awakening deep memories, the music can enable listeners, particularly those with dementia, to feel like themselves again. Many residents become less agitated or depressed and more animated and engaged.”
Lifetime Wellness was one of the first programs in Texas to be awarded a grant for Music & Memory. Now, Texas Health and Human Services is conducting studies on how these program protocols can not only reduce the use of antipsychotic medications but also increase staff retention and satisfaction.
Celebrating senior health and fitness
A person-centric program is not complete without addressing the needs of the body, Whitwell points out. “Our staff are trained to educate and motivate residents, increasing awareness of the benefits of regular physical activity—and making it fun.” Activities range from exercise and strength-building classes to dance, nature walks, and physical games.
StoneGate also participates each year in National Senior Health and Fitness Day. This year’s theme is, “With movement, there’s improvement.” To mark the occasion, a variety of special events are planned for May 31 throughout the three-state StoneGate community.
“Movement is essential to taking better care of ourselves and maintaining our highest level of function. Physical activity also releases endorphins, the ‘happy chemicals,’ and that release can help people maintain a positive attitude during difficult times.”
“Even for those who have traditionally been exercise adverse, it’s important to remember a little bit goes a long way. It’s progress, not perfection. At every turn, the goal is to keep people moving—in the right direction.”