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Mimi Vanderhaven Article
Published: 02/10/2015
by Laura Briedis Tomko

With its bucolic Westlake location, inviting suites, kind-hearted staff, and culture of person-centered care, Devon Oaks Assisted Living Community provides a warm and welcoming home away from home for area seniors.

And as part of Eliza Jennings (one of Greater Cleveland’s largest not-for-profit organizations serving older adults), the community is now offering a pioneering learning treatment aimed at improving memory and reducing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Paradigm Shift in Memory Care
Devon Oaks’ newly appointed executive director Kimberly Hernandez is thrilled to be one of the first centers in the country to offer SAIDO.

“What makes SAIDO Learning such a new shift in the paradigm is that it treats Alzheimer’s with a positive therapy, rather than just chronicling the decline of the person,” she says. “Every employee who works here, including me, is trained in SAIDO, and it helps that we are all on the same page, getting to know each resident’s goals and reinforcing those goals.”

Introduced in 2011 by Eliza Jennings, the program originated in Japan 13 years ago. SAIDO (which means “again” in Japanese) is a series of 30-minute sessions five days a week. Scientifically developed reading, writing, and arithmetic exercises are designed to stimulate the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Within the program, 18 levels of rote-learning exercises are designed for the older adult Learner to get 100% correct. As they go along, the Supporter gives praise and encouragement, which further stimulates this area of the brain, and the Learner then advances to the next level. 

No matter the level of dementia impairment or stage of progression of Alzheimer’s, this non-pharmacological treatment has produced remarkable results, from improved memory function, such as remembering names and phone numbers, to a more engaged level of conversational interaction.

Within a few weeks of beginning SAIDO Learning, people who previously would not take part actively in conversations began to express preferences. 

“Some Learners have even resumed hobbies such as knitting and reading aloud to grandchildren,” says Kimberly. 

Rick D. of Westlake, whose mother began the SAIDO Learning program at Devon Oaks in July, has witnessed a welcome improvement. 

“One of the first things I noticed is she can recite the names of her grandchildren with no prompting. And she now refers to the daughters-in-law by first name instead of asking, ‘Who is his wife?’ One of my brothers lives in California. When he visits, Mom always addresses him by our other brother’s name and I am always correcting her. We talked with him this week and she addressed him by his real name right away. My brother was startled. Instead of asking what his profession is, Mom will now ask me, ‘He’s a marketing director, right?’”

Says Kim, “The goal of SAIDO Learning is to not only provide care for individuals with dementia, but to actually reverse and slow the progress of the symptoms, thus improving a person’s quality of life.”

Kim points out that cognitively impaired residents of Devon Oaks are eligible to partake in the SAIDO Learning program at no additional cost.

Resident-Centered Approach
A pillar of the Eliza Jennings philosophy is person-centered care, providing a culture that is driven by the desires of residents and their families.

“There is nothing institutional about Devon Oaks,” Kim says. “Residents enjoy flexibility for meal times and even where they choose to eat. If I see someone relaxing on a sofa and they want to eat lunch there, that’s fine.”

The approach dovetails perfectly with the community’s relatively small size (54 one-bedroom and studio apartments and 12 secure memory apartments).

Tucked back on a quiet wooded lot across from Crocker Park, Devon Oaks is big enough to allow for ideal socialization, yet small enough to feel like home. The U-shaped building surrounds a lovely courtyard and gardens skirted by a white picket fence. And most apartments feature large windows that overlook the courtyard.

“Families enjoy taking their loved ones to our neighbor—Crocker Park—to take in all its splendor of dining, shopping and community activities,” says Kim. “They also appreciate our easy access to the highway. We’re just minutes away for an out-of-town visitor coming from the airport.”

Residents enjoy 24-hour assistance with activities associated with daily living, including meals, snacks, medication reminders, housekeeping, and laundry. And a range of weekly classes include fitness, Tai Chi, jewelry making, painting, and cooking, just to name a few. Hair, nail, and massage services are available in the onsite Salon PS. Pets are welcome, too. (Even Kim brings her precious little toy poodle Tia into work, a cheery pup that loves to hop on your lap for a tummy rub.) 

Can My Parent Age in Place?
As a resident of an Eliza Jennings community, an older adult has access to services across the full continuum of care. An important need in the community is respite care, and most centers do not have the capacity to offer it. But it’s available at Devon Oaks, whether a family is going on vacation or simply needs a break in care for a week or two.

Devon Oaks Assisted Living Community is located across from Crocker Park, at 2345 Crocker Road in Westlake. The organization is thankful for community support through volunteers and donations. To find out more about donations or to read testimonials from families who have experienced SAIDO Learning, visit elizajennings.org. Walk-in tours are available anytime during business hours. If you’d like more information, or would like to schedule a tour, contact Kathy Bultena at 440.250.2300 x 4402.