Memory Care programs enrich residents’ days

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org

Ophelia Sproling tapped her feet, clapped and swayed as Bridgette Kossar sang songs by Hank Williams, the Oak Ridge Boys, Elvis and other popular recording artists.

Sproling was joined by a couple dozen other residents from Cardinal Ritter Senior Services' Mary Queen and Mother Center in Shrewsbury. Sproling lived in the assisted living memory care for about a year at Mother of Perpetual Help before recently moving to the long-term nursing memory care at Mary Queen and Mother, and she has responded well.

"I love being here, and I like the friendly people," Sproling said. "It's a very home-like atmosphere. I especially like going to church and the music — my grandson was a dancer."

Cardinal Ritter offers programs and senior living options for individuals living with memory loss, cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. It provides guidance, companionship and prompting to navigate safely through their day.

Originally from Arkansas, Sproling, 92, came to St. Louis around 1950 and worked as a maid. She lived in her home in north St. Louis until her Alzheimer's disease progressed to the point where she couldn't stay there anymore.

Sproling's grandson, Morris E. Gaines, said that after a hospital stay, a frantic search ensued for assisted housing, "and we were lucky enough to end up at Cardinal Ritter. The faith-based facility was a good fit, the first place the entire family was in agreement that this was the right place. The whole approach, the dignity they give to the person was very important to us," Gaines said.

After choosing the assisted living center, the family learned that Sproling, a member of First Freewill Baptist Church in St. Louis, had attended a Catholic high school.

Staff at each of the Memory Care programs and senior living communities have completed the Person Centered Care Certificate Program. Cardinal Ritter gathers information on the life story of all incoming program participants and residents to assist staff in providing personalized attention to their needs and preferences. In addition, they use the Music and Memory Program to enhance and enrich their days.

Sproling was diagnosed as having troubles when the sun sets each day, and when her medication was changed her health improved. "At Cardinal Ritter, it's nice because they give her a lot of independence since she does so much better than people around her," Sproling's grandson said. "If you sat and spoke with her, you may not realize she has Alzheimer's. She seems very, very lucid and all her faculties seem to be there. I attribute that to the care she is being given. The nurses there are exceptional with her."

The Sproling family resident lived in an apartment unit with a unit below it occupied by her daughter. She was known for rising early and cleaning the front of the house as well as the alley and for making several trips to the basement to do laundry. At Cardinal Ritter, she keeps busy playing games with others, attending Mass and more. Soon after she moved in, she claimed it as home and commented on how much she enjoys being with so many people.

"I try to call her as much during the week as I can, and I can never get her because she's never in her room," Morris said. "We have to call the nurse to get her because she's in the activity room all day."

Morris, a senior human resources generalist with Amida Care in New York, moved to that state many years ago to work as a dancer. He later went to Columbia University and received a master's degree in organizational development.

Grace Community at Mother of Perpetual Help, an assisted living facility, includes 14 studio apartments in a secure community that is part of the larger facility. Mother of Perpetual Help also has the Faith Community, which includes 10 studio apartments. Activities include exercise, singing and dancing, and arts and crafts classes. Residents are encouraged to continue the daily activities that they have previously done at home.

Mary Queen and Mother Center's area is under construction. The plans include providing a bigger space for rehab services, an additional wing of memory care connected to the current Hope Community and more space for activities, dining and other uses. The larger nurses' station is no longer needed because health records now are kept electronically. Staffing is structured to allow for small group interactions and personal attention to all residents. Staff participates with the residents individually and in small group activities and events as well as with daily living activities. Residents are assessed regularly to create a care plan that is responsive to the changes in each person's condition. A home-like dining environment is included along with a "hearth room" that is designed as a typical living room in a home.

A therapy rehab suite is being expanded for people who need a short stay for physical, occupational or speech therapy with a working kitchen, stairs and other features to help people transition back to their home. Cardinal Ritter also has an adult day program on the campus that assists families who are caring for senior adults who cannot be left alone during the day, but who do not yet need nursing home care. 

More information

For photos and information on the Mary Queen and Mother Center construction, visit www.stlouisreview.com/b8H.

For more information on the Memory Care communities, call (314) 961-8000 or visitwww.cardinalritterseniorservices.org. 

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