Loretto Nurse Practitioner Desta Anthony is determined to help residents living with Dementia find purpose and is finding unique ways to do just that. As the primary care provider at The Heritage, one of Loretto’s memory care communities, Desta created a free boutique and a baby nursery in 2023 to allow residents to engage in activities they enjoy during their free time.

“The residents I care for had families, careers, and hobbies that kept them busy and engaged with daily life. I empathize with how their lives have changed since moving to a secure care facility,” she says. The idea to create a nursery and a boutique came from wanting to still provide them with a choice: to give them an errand to run, a place to work, and someone to care for.”

Located in a bright solarium on the second floor of the 79-apartment building, the boutique and nursery offer a respite for residents who can choose to peruse the racks or care for an infant baby doll. There are no hours or rules to follow, so residents can come and go as they please and take what they want with them when they go.

Boutique Benefits

The boutique features hats, scarves, jewelry, clothing, and shoes, which residents can “purchase” at no cost. Desta has created a store-like feel with mirrors and artwork reminiscent of downtown shops. She restocks the inventory with donations, and thrift store finds, taking great pride in offering appealing options.

Not only do residents have a place to shop, but the boutique offers other benefits, too! Desta says some residents have decided to “work” at the boutique, visiting regularly to straighten racks and adjust displays.

Why a Baby Nursery?

At the nursery, located next door to the boutique, residents find baby dolls resting in cradles awaiting new caretakers to cuddle, soothe, or dress them up for a day around the building – with outfits, blankets, and toys available to use too.

Residents are eager to care for the baby dolls as if they were their own child or grandchild, which begs the question: Why does caring for a doll provide residents with Alzheimer’s and Dementia comfort?

A study by the National Institute of Health found that doll therapy improves the emotional state of people with Dementia, diminishes disruptive behaviors, and promotes communication.

As a specialist in Dementia care, Desta has seen the impact doll therapy has had on her patients, which is one of the reasons she wanted to create the nursery at The Heritage.

“What do patients want to do? They want to go home; they want to go shopping. Based on their level of Dementia, they might regress to remembering the stage when they had young children, so the interaction with the memory care babies can be very stimulating for residents,” she explained. They think those babies are real and like the caring aspect because they regress to that stage of their life. The nursery fosters that connection for them.”

 Philosophy of Care

Desta believes that a holistic approach to Dementia—carefully monitoring each resident’s medication and working with families to ensure they are receiving the right medicine, care, and therapies— is also about finding ways to create moments of autonomy.

“It’s important for people with Dementia to have choices,” she says, explaining how group activities like Bingo that you typically see in a care facility are beneficial but not purposeful. “Going shopping is purposeful. Taking care of a baby is purposeful. These options provide residents with the autonomy and choice they crave, and I’m so glad it has helped improve their quality of life at The Heritage.”

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