Wit and Wisdom Blog for Atria Senior Living

      Wit and Wisdom      

a new view on growing older

Caring for the world’s wisest people

Posted on May 3, 2021 by Admin

Atria Senior Living’s care services are backed by our industry-leading quality standards. In our communities that offer care services, the Resident Services Director – who is also a licensed nurse – assesses each resident’s physical, emotional and functional needs prior to move-in, and then on an as-needed basis following that initial care plan.

How assessments work

Because the well-being of residents is our top priority, we pride ourselves on the rigor with which we conduct assessments. Here’s how the process works:

  • Prior to a new resident moving into Atria, a licensed nurse will visit the resident to review medications and develop an essential drug list.
  • A physician will review the assessment before it’s shared with the resident and his or her family. Atria will conduct another assessment the day the new resident moves in, and add it into our system to help caregivers organize their days and meet residents’ needs.
  • Following those initial assessments, Atria will conduct further assessments to determine whether a decrease or increase in care services is needed.

Discreet care is available 24 hours a day, and services generally fall into these three categories: personal care (bathing, grooming, getting dressed and safety checks); medication assistance (reminders, consultations with physicians and pharmacies and ongoing reviews with a nurse); and incontinent management (daytime and overnight assistance).

Some Atria communities also offer memory care, geared toward older adults experiencing the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Memory care neighborhoods are located in thoughtfully designed, secure spaces within a community.

Care and Engage Life®

The Engage Life department adds another layer of support to the licensed nurses and caregivers within an Atria community.

“Engage Life and care and social work – they’re all interlocked,” Beth Levi, Engage Life Director at Atria Forest Hills, said. “In my role, I have the opportunity to monitor residents through the activities they’re doing. I see them on a daily basis. So if I notice a change in condition, I can coordinate with the care team.”

Engage Life Directors create programs and workshops that enhance residents’ lives through social connection and lifelong learning, which is one reason Levi is looped into the part of the assessment process for new or prospective residents: She learns about a resident’s care needs and assistance levels, and then personalizes the community events calendar so that there are plenty of opportunities tailored to each individual.

“When a new resident moves in, I take all the programs we offer, and then I go over it with them,” Levi said. “They pick out what they like and we make a personalized schedule, so when they move in, it’s all set in their minds – ‘This is what I’m going to be doing.’ The calendar is adaptable and changeable, and based upon their interests and needs.”

The Atria advantage

“The differentiator in Atria’s care is our preparation, our response, our protocols, our internal Quality Enhancement review process,” Joanna Mansfield, Atria’s Senior Vice President of Care and Life Guidance, shared. “We have stringent guidelines. We have checks and balances to make sure residents’ needs are being fulfilled.”

Those stringent guidelines are the result of being so attentive to residents’ well-being. When it comes to a community’s Resident Services Director, Atria only hires nurses with a clinical skill set and management experience who are also familiar with working with older adults. That attention to detail required in their jobs helps give nurses and caregivers the structure necessary to provide the best care for the world’s wisest people.


Discover how empowering the right care can be at Atria Senior Living at ExploreAtriaCare.com.

Category: Active Aging, Caregiver Support, Community, Dementia & Memory Care, Our Team, Wit & Wisdom

Keeping the Atria family safe

Posted on April 9, 2021 by Admin

The health and safety of our residents and employees is our highest priority, and to deliver on that promise, we launched the “Sleeve Up Atria” initiative in late December – ever since COVID-19 vaccines became available.  

 As of April 9, we have administered more than 50,000 doses of the vaccine to nearly 90% of our residents and employees in the U.S.

“In early January, Atria was the first large senior living provider in America to mandate the vaccine for our staff,” John Moore, Atria’s Chairman and CEO, said. “The results make us glad we made up our minds early. So far, the breakdown is that more than 92% of our U.S. residents and 85% of our staff have taken the vaccine.” 

How vaccinations benefit residents

For the more than 20,000 residents who call Atria home, the success of “Sleeve Up, Atria” has translated into the confidence to enjoy meals and programs together. 

“Knowing we are no longer in the thick of it and that we’re getting back to normal makes me sleep better at night,” Beverly, a resident at Atria Rancho Peñasquitos in San Diego, California, stated. “I’m still staying safe, but now getting out and about again, and feeling freer. My next stop is our salon.” 

The vaccinations, along with state approvals, have enabled Atria to expand resident gatherings from 15 to 20, and expand the number of visitor– including families, guests and older adults interested in moving in to Atria – from three to five at a time. 

“The pandemic is not behind us yet, but now I feel safe to be with people, even though I still have to be careful,” Jansie, a resident at Atria at Foster Square in Foster City, California, said. “I have plans to visit my family in Seattle and see my grandchildren again.” 


Learn more about how Atria is protecting the health of our residents and staff at AtriaSafeTogether.com.

Category: Community, COVID-19, Our Team, Wit & Wisdom

Home is where the anchor drops

Posted on April 6, 2021 by Admin

St. Catharines, Ontario, about 12 miles northwest of Niagara Falls isn’t exactly known for its abundance of tropical plants, but that hasn’t stopped Gloria – an Atria resident at Anchor Pointe – from surrounding herself with flowers that might better thrive in Costa Rica than Canada.

Gloria has decorated her apartment with philodendrons and coleus, dracaenas and peace lilies, a schefflera tree that’s now over six feet tall – just to name a few – plus a red ceramic pot filled with red anthuriums. “They look like hearts,” Gloria said. “That’s why I love them. And I have six lavender mist orchids with a variety of ferns combined in the pot. I love mixing my colors. It speaks to me.”

“Follow your mind and your heart”

Gloria grew up in Toronto, about an hour north of Anchor Pointe. Her father was a millwright and traveled for work – everywhere from Alaska to Newfoundland and Labrador – and while he was away, the family chores sussed out so that Gloria handled the gardening, a task she loved from the start.

“I would plant onions and vegetables and cultivate them in the backyard. It wasn’t ever work – it was always a joy, and I always brought little flowers inside for my mother,” she explained.

As an adult, Gloria took classes to become a floral designer. At the end of her courses, the instructor told her, “Out of this class of 22 people, you are going to be the one who has a business.”

He was right. In the summer of 1963, Gloria opened a floral shop. “We had the whole kaleidoscope of anything commercial, from your everyday carnations to orchids and everything in between,” Gloria said.

She ran the shop for 39 years, before closing it in 2002. She still tells her children (“and anyone who will listen”) to make sure to love what you do for a living and not let anybody interfere. In Gloria’s words: “Follow your mind and your heart and you’ll be very happy.”

Discovering Anchor Pointe

In the years after she closed her shop, Gloria explored other interests. She freelanced as an interior designer for a close friend (who liked her work so much that he hired her to landscape his backyard). She planned parties. And she watched her kids mature into adults and follow their minds and hearts – her daughter Carla, who started helping around at her shop when she was only three, now manages a floral shop and garden center; another daughter, Andrea, is now semi-retired but worked as a hairdresser; and her son, Michael, an electrical contractor who owns his business.

When Gloria was thinking about moving to a senior living residence, Michael researched some of the nearby communities and found Anchor Pointe first.

They had two other community visits scheduled, but when Gloria walked into Anchor Pointe and looked around – seeing the chandelier, the high ceiling and people dining in an atmosphere of ease and comfort – she said, “Michael, cancel the other appointments. I’ve just found home.”

Coming “home”

Had she known about Anchor Pointe before, Gloria said she would have moved in sooner.

“The grounds are lovely,” she stated. “The backyard has a garden, and beautiful trees. There’s a forest in the back. Having the plants around and the grounds being as they are gives you peace of mind. The place is so well taken care of.”

Gloria has replicated the beauty she finds outdoors at Anchor Pointe inside her apartment with the flowers she’s loved all her life.

“When I open my eyes to greet another day and I see their color, it invigorates me. I touch them. I water them. I clean them,” she said. “I’ve made many friends at Anchor Pointe, but the flowers are also my companions, and they remind me of that part of my life that was so important and vital, and I love with my heart and soul.”

When Gloria was moving into Anchor Pointe, Andrea brought her a momento that she picked up while on a vacation: a coffee mug with the words “Home is where the anchor drops.” To Gloria, it seemed so apropos that she’s now added decorations of anchors throughout her apartment – symbols of home mixed in amid her flowers. “I’ve found home and it’s certainly called ‘anchor,’” Gloria exclaimed. “It’s called Anchor Pointe.”


If you or someone you know wants to learn more about Atria, visit AtriaSeniorLiving.com/FindACommunity to discover the community nearest you.   

Category: Active Aging, Community, Wit & Wisdom

Introducing Atria Cary

Posted on April 1, 2021 by Admin

At Atria Senior Livingour mission is to serve the needs of older adults and their families. To that end, one of the ways we deliver on that mission is to develop new senior living communities. Our latest such development in the works: Atria Cary in none other than Cary, North Carolina. 

An idyllic setting in the Tar Heel State 

The township of Cary straddles the line between the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain regions of North Carolina, located roughly in the center of the state and between the Chapel Hill-Durham and Raleigh urban centers.  

“Atria Cary is in a beautiful setting  I mean, stunning,” Jamie Floyd, Vice President of Sales Training and New Developments and Acquisitions at Atria, said. “There are miles of trails and greenways that weave around Cary. The town’s not that big, so there’s a lot of walking space and a strong lean toward wellness and outdoor living and activity.” 

Scheduled to open in winter 2021-22, Atria Cary will be one of Atria Senior Living’s communities designed exclusively for older adults seeking independent living. Atria Cary was planned with the area’s trails and greenways in mind, so that residents can find abundant opportunities to get out, be in nature, ride a bike, go for a walk, and so on.  

Touring the grounds 

Atria Cary residents will enjoy amenities such as a wine bar, a movie theater, an art studio, a courtyard, a worship space and more. Being involved in the development, touring the grounds and poring over blueprints, Floyd can already envision what Atria Cary will look like. 

“There won’t be a bad view from any apartment,” she said. “You’ll look out at tall pines that sway in the breeze or the sunset and the amphitheater across the wayIt’s just amazing.” 


To learn more about Atria Cary, visit AtriaCary.com.

Category: Active Aging, Community, Our Team, Wit & Wisdom

A rewarding place to work

Posted on by Admin

The members of our culinary team – no matter which level they have risen to in the department – have brought their talents to Atria for different reasons. For Chad Welch, Executive Chef of Culinary Operations, one of the draws to Atria was the opportunity to keep expanding his culinary skill set.

Quality work-life balance

“A chef at Atria has the chance to learn different cuisine – what quahogs are in Massachusetts, or what a Hot Brown is in Kentucky, or what a Louie salad is in California,” Welch said. “All of our chefs have the ability to share input on the menus we create.”

Other chefs come to Atria because the culinary department affords them a quality work-life balance. Christopher Lyons, Divisional Director of Culinary Services, remembers shifts in the restaurant world where he’d stay past 11 pm only to be back in the kitchen again before 9 the next morning. At Atria, Lyons found a chance to work with talented chefs and servers, but also to maintain reasonable hours.

“I saw an opportunity with senior living to find a good work-family balance,” Lyons stated. “This is the perfect way to stay in the culinary world and also watch your kids grow up.”

Lyons discovered a much calmer working environment at Atria than what he was used to in the restaurant industry.

“If you’ve been in the restaurant business, you know that there’s always a fight between the front of the house and the back of the house. That doesn’t happen at Atria. Everyone here works as a team.”

Camaraderie and community

Those dynamics of camaraderie and community extend to the relationship that the culinary teams have with the residents, as well.

“Cooking is from the heart,” Linda Petrillo, Divisional Director of Culinary Services, exclaimed. “When I train people, one of the things I always say is, ‘Remember this: You are cooking in the residents’ kitchen and dining room.’ It’s that personal.”

One member of Petrillo’s culinary team is Marie Anthony, who is a part of the waitstaff at Atria Riverdale in New York.

“I love helping the residents,” Anthony stated. “You get to know them on a personal level – what they’re doing, what’s going on in their lives – because you serve them breakfast, lunch and dinner. You see them frequently, so you make a lot of friends with them.”

Asked if she would rather be at a freestanding restaurant, Anthony said she prefers Atria because the dining experience feels more friendly than frantic.

“It’s different than a restaurant, where you just go there and leave,” she explained. “Residents will sometimes sit and chat with their neighbors and staff for two or three hours. So you feel more at home, and it makes you want to come back to work every day. You wouldn’t want to miss that, because you put a smile on the residents’ faces. That makes your day go by with joy on your face.”

Lyons echoed a similar sentiment: “It’s really like a family here,” he said. “There’s no place quite like family that I’ve seen anywhere else, and I would say that for the residents, the waitstaff and the cooks. We treat everyone as a family member.”

Keeping the Atria family safe

Because the well-being of residents and employees is Atria’s highest priority, we are providing the COVID-19 vaccine to everyone in our communities. Welch received his shot in December, and according to him, it’s changed his life.

“My wife and I can actually go to restaurants and be around each other and feel comfortable,” he said. “And in our communities, our employees deserve to be vaccinated and deserve to be in a safe space with other vaccinated folks.”

Anthony was hesitant about being vaccinated at first, but now she’s glad that she received the vaccine.

“It’s going to benefit you in the long run,” Anthony declared. “It gives you a clear mind, so you don’t have to worry about traveling. I think it’s for the best that you take it. You’ll be safe.”


Learn more about what makes Atria the best place to work and explore current open positions at AtriaCareers.com.

Category: Community, Culinary, Our Team, The Atria Kitchen, Wit & Wisdom

“I can’t imagine working anywhere else”

Posted on March 21, 2021 by Admin

Marissa Jacobson-Ojinaga, the Engage Life Director at Atria Rancho Peñasquitos in San Diego, California, has loved learning from the world’s wisest people ever since she was in elementary school. She regularly volunteered with her classmates at a senior living community across the street – playing cards with the residents, listening to their stories and reading with them. “That experience just spoke to my heart,” Marissa said, “in part because I had such a close bond with my grandparents.” 

Because her parents traveled so much for work, Marissa’s grandparents were quite involved in her upbringing. They dropped her off and picked her up from school and taught her everything from how to play golf to smaller lessons like folding socks instead of balling them up, which she still carries with her today. “Losing them was hard, but I’m so thankful for the example they set in my life,” Marissa said. 

After graduating high school, Marissa went to work for a bank. The pay was good. The hours were flexible. She settled into the routine, the benefits, the weekends off – but she never felt fulfilled in her professional life. After Marissa met her husband, who owned an IT consulting firm, they moved around to Washington and Arizona. She worked in corporate banking and the home construction sector, but she often thought back to her grandparents and her time volunteering with residents in the senior living community.  

“I always loved learning from our aging population, and because of the bond I had with them, I wanted a career where I could give back,” Marissa said. “I wanted to do something with purpose.” 

Believing in herself 

Throughout their marriage, Marissa’s husband traveled every week to meet with clients around the country, taking a red-eye flight on Sundays and coming home on Thursdays. The demands of that schedule sometimes felt onerous to the couple, so in 2018, when one of his clients offered Marissa’s husband a more settled role in San Diego, he accepted – relocating, in large part, because of the sense of stability the move gave to their lives. 

Once in California, Marissa applied for a few positions that dovetailed with her prior experience in banking and home construction, but she ultimately decided to wade into senior living, to see if she did have the emotional capacity for it  a field she respected so much she was hesitant to work in it. Within a few weeks, a role as an Engage Life Director – a specialist who develops a calendar filled with daily opportunities for residents to engage, connect, and create  opened up. Marissa applied and was hired.  

Almost at once, she felt comfortable at the community. “I know the staff’s children’s names. They become part of your family,” Marissa said. “I have some of the residents’ families tell me that their son is getting out of the Marines and they show me a picture. You become part of their lives. They allow you to share moments with them  it means so much. I’m more thankful for this job than any job I’ve ever had before.” 

Finding purpose

After two years at Atria Rancho Peñasquitos, Marissa continues to learn from and engage with residents every day. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, she hosted teatime socials, arranged games, organized outings to go shopping and visit nail salons, and led group events like “Passport Around the World,” where residents learned about different cultures and sampled a medley of cuisine that paired with each lesson. She also loved hosting the “Marissa Mimosa Show”  a mock talk show format where she passed out mimosas and acted like she was Ellen DeGeneres, interviewing staff and residents. “What can I say? I’m kooky and crazy.” 

Today, with safety restrictions in place, Marissa still has fun keeping the community lively, and she moves about her day knowing that she has finally found her calling at Atria. “I love coming into the building every morning,” she said. “The second you walk through the front door, it’s a welcoming environment. Everybody here is approachable. They’re friendly. Building relationships with the residents is one of the greatest honors of my life.”

Just as the smaller parcels of wisdom her grandparents shared – the admonition to fold her socks, not ball them up – linger in her mind, the advice on living well every day that residents give her resonate the most with Marissa. One resident told her recently, “Don’t get so caught up in the immediate. In the end, what matters is whether you and the ones you love are healthy and safe.”  

The way residents have imparted insights upon her has centered Marissa. They remind her so much of her grandparents that she feels at ease to joke around with them, and she’s always looking for ways to make them laugh.

One resident loves watching Ronda Rousey fights, so Marissa snuck a life-size cutout of Rousey into his apartment and topped it with a bow.  

“I had never seen him laugh so hard. It was super rewarding, because you feel a sense of loyalty to everyone here,” Marissa said. “I don’t think I could have been where I’m at or felt mentally more myself or emotionally more myself if it wasn’t for Atria. I can’t imagine working anywhere else.” 


Learn more about all the ways that Atria’s a great place to work and current open positions at AtriaCareers.com.  

Category: Active Aging, Community, Our Team, Wit & Wisdom

The right care empowers older people and reassures family

Posted on March 13, 2021 by Admin

At Atria, we believe the right amount of discreet personal care can help older people participate, grow and engage in what brings them purpose and joy.

We also believe in supporting families by doing everything we can to reassure them their parent is safe, well cared for and meaningfully connected to others.

Sheila and Rochelle

After her husband of 59 years passed away, Rochelle didn’t want to live alone. Friends suggested senior living, and her daughter, Sheila, traveled to North Carolina to help search for options. After touring Atria Southpoint Walk, they made their decision.

“It was wonderful,” Sheila said. “We knew within 10 minutes this was the place.”

A self-professed social butterfly, Rochelle settled right in. She loved the full calendar of events, friendly neighbors and chef-prepared meals. Sheila was relieved to see her mother gaining back the weight she’d lost after her father passed away.

Two years later, Rochelle took a fall. Sheila came to visit from Illinois while her mother recuperated. During treatment, doctors noticed a bit of memory loss and diagnosed Rochelle with mild dementia.

“Dementia doesn’t run in our family, so I didn’t know what to do,” said Sheila. “That’s when I started Googling.”

Sheila discovered Atria Glenview 10 minutes from her home in Illinois. Rochelle’s dementia was mild enough for her to move into assisted living, with specialized care available in the community’s Life Guidance® memory care neighborhood, if needed.

“It was much like the independent living community Mom came from so it was a good fit,” stated Sheila. “But knowing she had help taking her medications and staff to make sure she was eating was such a relief.”

Eventually, Rochelle’s dementia progressed, and she moved to Life Guidance. Sheila said the staff at Atria were there for both of them, every step of the way. The team not only provided compassionate, highly personalized care for her mother, they helped Sheila understand more about dementia, what to expect and ways to cope with her own feelings – through support groups and phone calls at least twice a week from Life Guidance Director Kelly Burnett.

“The regular contact eases my mind,” Sheila added. “I’ve been able to express my own fears and concerns without being dismissed. I can’t tell you how much that matters.

“When you think of all the changes that have happened with my mom, having Atria on our side to guide us has been invaluable. I don’t think people realize how deep the support can go at Atria.”

Jack and Richard

Jack gets around. The 89-year-old resident of Atria Oakridge in North Carolina knows every dining room server by name and most of his neighbors, too. Before COVID-19, he loved playing the piano during ice cream socials.

“Dad is really outgoing,” said his son, Richard. “He enjoys talking with people, and he’s sharp as a tack. He’s thoroughly enamored with Atria.”

Jack came to live at the community a few years ago after his wife moved into a skilled nursing facility. Richard lives 600 miles away and didn’t want to worry about his father living alone.

“I don’t think it would do him well to be on his own completely,” said Richard. “It’s not safe for someone his age.

“Since he’s been at Atria, I’m confident he’s in good hands. I never have to worry. That’s priceless to me.”

Holly and Martin

Martin moved to Atria Sugar Land in Texas four years ago. At 93, he often forgets to wear a face mask when leaving his apartment. Lucky for him, staff find creative ways to help; lately, they’ve been hanging a face mask on his walker with a friendly message reminding him to wear it.

“They’ve hired really great people,” said Martin’s daughter, Holly. “I work in education, so I know in any school system you can be in the worst building with great teachers or the best building with bad teachers. It’s all about the people.”

When searching for senior living, Holly and her father explored several communities to find one that was warm and welcoming. The day they toured Atria, Martin’s wife was too sick to join them.

“I told them we’d have one less for lunch, so the staff packed a meal to take with us for my stepmom,” continued Holly. “Little things like that speak volumes.”

Knowing her father has support around the clock gives Holly and her siblings comfort. Two years ago, Martin’s health issues required a hospital stay. After returning to Atria, he was weak and needed extra support. Staff escorted him to meals and checked on him several times throughout the night.

“Just knowing that attention was there lifted a big weight off our shoulders,” said Holly.

Regular communication also puts her mind at ease.

“That’s huge,” she said. “You want to know what’s going on and they keep us updated by email and phone.

“It’s clear to see they really care about residents. And I don’t have to worry.”


Discover how empowering the right care can be at Atria Senior Living at ExploreAtriaCare.com.

Category: Active Aging, Caregiver Support, Community, Wit & Wisdom

COVID-19 vaccine clinics are paving the way to a brighter future

Posted on March 3, 2021 by Admin

Atria residents and staff alike are celebrating their contribution to bringing normalcy back to communities and beyond as vaccine clinics continue.  As of this writing, every Atria community in the U.S. has completed their first clinic and has either completed or scheduled their second clinic; 95 percent of communities have their third clinic scheduled.     

Last December, Atria Chairman and CEO John Moore announced a vaccination mandate for all residents and staff.    

Atria’s number one priority is safety, therefore stringent COVID-19 safety protocols will remain intact until everyone in communities is fully vaccinated.   

“We continue to hear from residents and employees who say they feel it’s their patriotic duty to get the vaccine,” said Moore.      

Beyond a strong sense of duty, those within communities are expressing their gratitude for having been among the first to receive the vaccine.     

“I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. It’s so wonderful to live in a community that provided the shot to us,” said Sharell, a resident at Atria Copeland in Texas. “I feel safe knowing I can soon get out and be around people.”    

In communities, people are beginning to feel the positive impact of the vaccine as each day goes by.  

“Everyone is much happier now because a change is coming. Residents are starting to gather and visit with each other again,” said Lachaka Johnson, Engage Life Director at Atria Copeland. “I can’t wait to get with residents and play Skip-Bo and poker, and go for a joyride throughout the community, especially since spring is right around the corner. I’m ready to plan a movie night with concession stand favorites. I’m ready to get back to doing group exercise and paint and sip parties.”    

Plans are currently underway to resume group gatherings.     

“We talk more about what we want for our future and less about how things are currently,” said Ria Enore, Engage Life Director at Atria Willow Park in Texas. “I come to work and go home knowing we’re gearing up for a brighter future for everyone, and that in itself is absolutely encouraging.”     

After a year of creating safe ways to keep residents happy, connected, active and engaged, Atria is elated to see communities slowly bring them together, in-person, with their friends and family.     

“I am relieved because we are on our way to do the things we love to do,” said Mary, a resident at Atria Springdale in Kentucky.       

As final vaccination clinics are set to be completed, the last two months have proven that Team Atria is prepared to navigate even the most unexpected events in order to keep everyone safely connected.   


To see how Atria is creating the safest possible environment for residents and staff, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.        

Category: Community, COVID-19, Our Team, Wit & Wisdom

Highly personalized care sets Atria’s Life Guidance® memory care apart

Posted on February 20, 2021 by Admin

At 94, Gloria had hardly ever washed her own hair, relying instead on regular visits to the beauty parlor. After moving to Atria, she kept up her routine at the community’s salon until it closed temporarily due to COVID-19.

That’s when Kelly Burnett, the community’s Life Guidance Memory Care Director, voluntarily took over washing and styling Gloria’s hair.

“That’s not her job, but she knows how important it is to my mother” said Gloria’s son, Bill. “It’s a great example of how caring the staff is. I’ll remember that forever.”

When Joe first moved to Atria, he was depressed. He’d just completed rehabilitation for a stroke, relied on a walker to get around and was developing mild symptoms of dementia.

Despite daily invitations to join his neighbors for gatherings and events, Joe stayed inside his apartment. But staff members didn’t give up. They continued their visits several times a day to say hello, check in and gently urge him to venture out.

It took a few weeks of patient encouragement before Joe started leaving his apartment. Soon he was participating in nearly every event.

“Everyone moves at their own pace,” said Tomika Polk, Divisional Director of Life Guidance Memory Care Operations. “Once Joe realized he could trust the people he lived with, he blossomed.” 

Caring for the individual

No two people experience Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia the same way. The symptoms, behaviors and rate of disease progression look different for each individual.

Memory care at Atria is highly personalized to each resident, with one-to-one attention and support from caring staff in a secure, thoughtfully designed setting. Residents also enjoy daily opportunities to engage in meaningful pursuits such as art workshops, discussion groups and fitness classes.

Having worked in dementia care since 1993, Ron Bowen, Divisional Director of Life Guidance Memory Care Operations at Atria, says getting to know an individual’s likes and dislikes, personal history and what makes them tick is especially important when caring for a person with dementia.

“We want to understand the essence of a resident,” Bowen said. “We want to find out everything about Mom that will help us help her.”

To do this, caregivers collaborate with a new resident and their family to answer 116 specific questions, ranging from past occupations to favorite music genres to what calms and reassures them. Bowen refers to this as a resident’s life story.

“We take the answers to those questions and what they say about the resident, the things they like to do, and create a plan to keep them active and engaged.”

Most residents also receive a memory display to hang beside their apartment door. Families can choose to fill it with photos and meaningful mementos that illustrate their family member’s personality. The space also serves a practical purpose by helping the resident locate their apartment.

When staff members get to know a resident well, they can adjust the way they respond to certain behaviors. For some residents, music is a soothing antidote to aggressive behavior, which is a common symptom of dementia. Staff may help other residents focus on a simple task or project to redirect their attention in a positive way.

“What works for one person doesn’t always work for another,” Bowen said.

Developing emotional intelligence

A person with dementia can’t always control their emotions or communicate what they’re feeling. If they appear upset or confused, caregivers need to know the best way to respond.

Staff training at Atria includes universal dementia care methods such as redirecting or reducing distractions. Caregivers are also coached in more intuitive techniques such as “how to read a room,” as Bowen put it.

“We need to use our emotional intelligence when figuring out how to respond,” he said.

Emotional intelligence includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. The more in touch a staff member is with their own emotions, the better they can assess another’s and respond appropriately.

“We ask family members how they approach Mom, and what kinds of emotions she typically shows. How we respond from an emotional standpoint is what helps the resident feel at ease,” Bowen said.

Polk agreed, adding that a caregiver’s mood also can impact the way a resident behaves. 

“People with dementia can sense your vibe and react to it,” she said. “I train staff members to put aside any personal issues as much as possible when they come to work. We want to create a peaceful, enjoyable environment.”

Building trust and communication

Forging a relationship with family is also key to Atria’s personalized approach. After a new resident moves in, a designated caregiver contacts the family with updates every day.

“It’s about connecting from the very beginning to make sure families are part of the process,” Bowen said. “Once they’re on board, it makes caring for the resident easier.”

Whether it’s making decisions together about medical treatment or discussing Dad’s need for a new pair of slippers, staff stay in regular contact with family. In her previous role as a Life Guidance Memory Care Director, Polk even sent photos to family members showing the resident active and engaged.

“We want them to know what their family member is doing,” she said. “That’s one way to gain a family’s trust.”

Bill says the staff members who  care for his mother, Gloria, have “just the right touch” and update his family regularly.

“When they call, the first four words are always ‘Your mom is all right,’ and then they talk about what’s going on. 

“From the beginning, I could see that these people truly care. I can’t imagine a better place for Mom,” Bill said.


If you or someone you know could benefit from Atria’s forward-thinking, highly personalized memory care, please reach out to the Atria community near you for more information.

Category: Active Aging, Community, COVID-19, Dementia & Memory Care, Wit & Wisdom

Personal care that empowers seniors to live more fully

Posted on February 15, 2021 by Admin

For older adults who want to maintain a level of independence – yet could use a helping hand to do so – assisted living offers a vibrant option.

Meet a few people who are enjoying a greater sense of well-being at Atria.

Jim and Rhea

Late one night, Rhea discovered her husband Jim lying on the kitchen floor, unable to get up. At 91, he was developing symptoms of dementia along with a heart condition that made him weak. For two years, Rhea had been her husband’s only caregiver and, at 88, she said she felt worn down.

“I had to take care of our four-bedroom house, pay the bills, deal with yard work, laundry,” Rhea said. “I was also taking care of my husband, who had just gotten out of the hospital. I had to do everything.”

Rhea knew caring for Jim on her own was no longer an option. After visiting four assisted living communities, the couple moved to Atria Cypresswood. 

“Life here is absolutely wonderful,” said Rhea. “The staff has helped me so much by caring for my husband.”

Soon after settling into their Atria apartment, COVID-19 began popping up around the country, spurring community restrictions to keep residents safe. Despite quarantine measures and suspended social gatherings, Rhea says she’s grateful they made the move when they did.

“Coming here was a blessing because we probably would have had COVID by now,” she said. “The staff does a great job keeping everyone safe and healthy.”

With her husband receiving support and care services daily, Rhea feels more rested. She loves having time to read and sew and even made Christmas gifts for the entire Atria Cypresswood staff. She says she and Jim look forward to joining group events once they resume.

“We’re extremely happy here,” said Rhea. “The staff is lovely, the food is good, the people are kind and generous. We are very, very content.”


After her husband passed away, Jean suffered a minor stroke. She continued living alone in her house.

During one visit they found Jean lying on the floor, unconscious. That’s when Jean’s daughter insisted her mother move across the country to be closer. They started shopping for assisted living communities, and Jean moved into Atria Cypresswood around the beginning of the pandemic.

“It was a blessing to move here right when COVID started,” said Jean. “I’m so much better off than if I’d stayed in my house. The support we get here is grade-A, and they make everything so fun and happy.”

“Being here takes a lot of worry off my daughter’s mind.”

Maurine and Larry

After 55 years in their home on Long Island, Maurine and Larry needed a change. At 92, Larry had suffered a few falls and relied on a walker to get around. Maurine, 89, has balance issues and was finding it difficult to keep hauling laundry and groceries up and down stairs.

With help from their four children, the couple began looking for assisted living options. Shortly after starting the search, they found Atria Kew Gardens, and despite moving to the community during a period of COVID-19 restrictions, Maurine says she and Larry are thrilled with their decision.

“I don’t have to carry bundles up the stairs anymore," said Maurine. "They do the housekeeping, the laundry – which is great – meals are delivered to our apartment.”

Maurine and Larry are also improving their strength, balance and flexibility with occupational therapy sessions twice a week. Once life returns to a sense of pre-COVID normal, both look forward to visiting with family in person and participating in classes and events at the community.

“Life is a lot easier.”


Discover how empowering the right care can be at Atria Senior Living at ExploreAtriaCare.com.

Category: Active Aging, Community, COVID-19, Wit & Wisdom