MORRO BAY — Old age is inevitable for many of us. Some of us may develop conditions that affect how our brain functions. Alzheimer disease and dementia are on the rise, not because the diseases are increasing but because we are living longer, there are more of us; thus, the increase of people with these issues.
“With 79 million Baby Boomers aging there will be about 15 million suffering with these problems,” explained Kasey Watson, Director of the Garden House care facility in Morro Bay. “It’s predicted by the Alzheimer Association that one in eight people will develop the disease,” she said, “and one in six will develop some kind of dementia.”
Those kinds of numbers highlight the need for care facilities that cater to the needs of these individuals and their families and friends. Garden House cares for all people who need daily help including stroke survivors, cancer patients, Parkinson’s disease, and other serious or extreme age conditions.
The motto at the Garden House is awarding winning care, peace of mind and innovative services. This doesn’t just go for the residents but is extended to the staff and others who encounter the facility. “We are dedicated to innovative care and that includes all of the activities we offer our residents,” Watson said.
The facility itself is a bright and cheerful place with individual rooms for 15 residents. Each room has furniture including a bed, night table, and closet and residents are encouraged to bring personal belongings and mementos with them for their rooms. Delightful paintings are on the walls of the common spaces and there are places for residents to gather for comfort and silence throughout. An outside patio has tables and chairs and a newly planted garden brightens the space. A large common room and a kitchen are also included.
Watson and her Assistant Administrator, Jody Hollier work together to create innovative techniques and fun projects for the residents. One of those projects in a recent year involved an ice-dyeing process that Hollier guided the residents in accomplishing. This project was highlighted in the 2018 Garden House calendar with photos of everyone creating many designs. The project was so successful that they turned it into a fundraising effort and now have colorful scarves, market bags and tea towels for sale as well as dog tank tops that can be dyed in colors of a purchaser’s choice.
The Garden House is a non-profit 501c3 and has several fundraising projects throughout the year to subsidize the costs of running such a facility and have raised approximately $133,000 to help offset costs and keep fees as low as possible. The calendar project is one of the fundraising projects they do.
The 2019 calendar shows another innovative project that not only involved residents but was aided by a group of six Cal Poly Freshman in the University Honors Program who dedicated their time and talent to complete a community service project. The students who were studying areas in architectural engineering, business administration, biological sciences, civil engineering, and biomedical engineering helped put in an extensive garden on the site with vegetables and herbs used in preparing foods for the anti-inflammatory diet served to the residents.
Watson emphasized that their training program in methods of care for people with dementia are extended to students like these as well as the caregivers they hire. “We have a partnership with the Food Science and Nutrition Service at Cal Poly where students need to do a certain number of hours of community service,” Watson said, “and most of the students choose to come to Garden House.”
They also participate in the work-study program at Cuesta College and their nursing program and are digging in to solidify that relationship to reach students. “People need to know how to deal with people at this level of care, Watson explained, “whether it is first responders, people at the bank, grocery store people, or medical people. Everyone needs to know how to understand, communicate, and assist people with these issues.”
Families are often the ones who most need to learn how best to deal with family members suffering from dementia and Alzheimer disease. For many, the change in their loved one makes life difficult for the whole family and it is hard for them to understand why the person is acting differently. Watson and Hollier take this seriously as do the entire staff, and training for families is part of the care offered.
The Garden House has won awards, and they are the only licensed non-profit care facility in San Luis Obispo County. You can learn more and donate at their website at www.gardenhousemorrobay.org .